Pikachu: famous Pokémon and famous trademark?

01 September 2022

Pokémon’s popularity seems to know no bounds: from playing cards to computer games and movies, these characters pop up everywhere. In fact, with the introduction of Pokémon Go in 2016, it has only become more popular in recent years. No wonder then, that Nintendo's merchandising machine is working overtime and there is more than enough reason to protect the name Pokémon as a trademark.

The most famous Pokémon character is Pikachu, and alongside other better-known Pokémon such as Charmander, Venusaur, Mewtwo and Bulbasaur, it has been registered as a trademark in the European Union. What is interesting here is whether these Pokémon characters also have a trademark function: are they distinguishing marks by which people can recognise a product’s origin? For example, can Charmander be used as a trademark for diverse products? Or should these names be regarded solely as characters that are inextricably linked to a product, in which case, the umbrella trademark would be Pokémon?

In the case of Dr. No, both a film title and a character from the James Bond Series, the European Court saw no trademark use. But in a recent opposition filed against the trademark PKAQIU, the European Trademarks Office ruled that PIKACHU is a well-known trademark. The question of whether a character actually is a trademark was not the point: the logical conclusion is that the EUIPO considers Pikachu a trademark. This is good news for Nintendo: the opposition was decided in their favour because the PIKACHU trademark is so well-known. Even if the case had gone against them, Pikachu could have launched one of its lightning attacks. It's always handy to have a Pokémon on your side!

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