For an interesting opposition case, we are traveling to Italy this week where Apple has filed an opposition against an application of the trademark Pineapple.
Although both pineapple and apples are fruit names and are part of a healthy diet, they are two completely different types of fruit. In other words, the conceptual difference between these two names should neutralize the visual and aural similarity (if present).
This opinion would probably be true in English speaking countries. But in Italy, as confirmed by the trademarks office in the decision, the knowledge of English is not widespread. The Italian trademark office says in this respect that apple still somewhat resembles the Italian word “mela”, but the meaning of pineapple is unknown to the Italians. In addition, the Italian Trademark Office considers the trademarks to be similar. Considering the great reputation of Apple, consumers could recognize the Apple trademark in Pineapple. And so Apple’s opposition is accepted.
This decision clearly shows that while trademark law is greatly harmonized in the EU, the assessment of trademark infringement is in most cases a local exercise. Language and culture play a major role in this.