A tale of two tails

31 May 2022

Few things are as recognizable as the tail fin of a plane: it’s where you can see at a glance which airline the plane belongs to. The national pride of The Netherland's is of course KLM's white tail fin with KLM in light-blue letters. Another famous example is the red and white kangaroo of Qantas. Equally well-known was Lufthansa’s yellow and blue tail fin. The yellow became white following a rebranding, resulting in a cleaner look but retaining the attractiveness of the original.

Unfortunately, the Polish airline LOT was less happy about this, especially when Lufthansa submitted their tail-fin logo as a European trademark. LOT filed an opposition based on two trademarks: their logo and their "tail-fin mark".

Does LOT have a point? There needs be quite a strong resemblance to justify an objection to a logo. Superficially, these logos are pretty similar, and it's not until you take a closer look that you see that there are quite a few visual differences. For example, the birds in the logos are completely different and the shade of blue is not exactly the same. The white circle is similar, but that is not a strong distinguishing element. From this description, it does not sound as if the tail-fin logos are that alike. The European Trademarks Office came to the same conclusion and ruled that visually and sound-wise, the marks are not similar. Conceptually, however, there is some similarity. As a rule, a conceptual similarity is not sufficient to assume confusion. This was also found to be the case here; the European Trademarks Office saw no risk of confusion and therefore no reason to reject Lufthansa's application.

The ruling did not go in LOT’s favour, and their opposition was rejected.




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