Booking.com - well-known and strong brand?

09 September 2021

 There was time when you did went travelling with just a backpack and a Lonely Planet. At the most, the first hotel was booked already, but it was one big adventure. Those times are gone as the temptation to book hotels and holiday houses in front, is just too big.

The crucial Lonely Planet hotel list has been replaced by the most popular hotels on Booking.com, the well-known website that allows you to book hotels and now houses anywhere in the world.

The name Booking.com consists of the word booking and the url .com. These words have little distinctive character of their own from a trademark law perspective. As a consumer (with basic knowledge of the English language), you know exactly what to expect: on this website you can book something.

Such trademarks are hard to claim right? After all, descriptive words cannot be claimed under trademark law. On the one hand, this is true. On the other hand, descriptive trademarks can acquire distinctive character through use. In the case of Booking.com, known worldwide, this can certainly be the case. Nevertheless, such a descriptive mark does often have a legal challenge: the validity of the mark will have to be proven in any proceedings at hand. And these proceedings are more frequent, the chances that a new holiday platform includes a word like booking is higher than in the case of fantasy word.

Recently Booking.com filed an opposition against the European application of bookingeurope.com. The basis was a likelihood of confusion. But, in addition to this basis, Booking.com also argued that the trademark bookingeurope.com would benefit from the reputation of Booking.com and that this trademark was detrimental to its reputation. The latter ground requires that a trademark has a reputation, which has to be proven. Booking.com submitted various pieces of evidence. Convincing evidence, according to the EUIPO, Booking.com is regarded as a well known trademark for the provision of hotel services. Furthermore, there is a clear link between the marks and a risk of freeriding is also present. So even though Booking.com was a descriptive mark, this mark is now a well-known trademark and its opposition against bookingeurope.com was successful.  

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