Yet another defeat for Lewis Hamilton

01 February 2022

After his momentous loss in the Formula 1 final, Lewis Hamilton could probably have done with a rest. Unfortunately for him, however, yet another defeat was just around the corner. Hamilton’s application (dating from 2015) to register the European trademark LEWIS HAMILTON for jewellery, watches and the sale of these products was rejected by the European Trademarks Office after an opposition was filed by another company: Hamilton, a subsidiary of Swatch. The fact that this opposition was also originally filed in 2015 suggests that the parties have been engaged in prolonged negotiations. They must have been unable to reach a settlement, as the matter was eventually submitted to the European Trademarks Office.

The company Hamilton had already registered the trademark more than once, and this was put forward as a defence by Lewis Hamilton, who asked whether the second application had been made in good faith or for the sole purpose of artificially extending the period of usage in order to prevent proof of use being submitted in procedures? Repeat applications have been the focus of scrutiny recently, and are being assessed much more strictly. The European Trademarks Office decided that this was not the case; the description of the second trademark had been more comprehensive and no circumstances had arisen that gave rise to any suspicion of bad faith. Furthermore, this is not a claim in an opposition case, but in a separate revocation case against the HAMILTON trademark.

Another point of discussion was just how famous is Lewis Hamilton? According to Lewis Hamilton, his name is so well known that consumers will directly associate these products with the racing driver, not with any other brand. It was argued that this creates a conceptual difference. Lewis was referring to a judgment issued by the Court of Justice in the Massi/Messi case. The Court of Justice had ruled that the fact that Messi was so famous created a conceptual difference and there was therefore no similarity between the brands of Massi and Messi.

But the European Trademarks Office did not agree with Lewis Hamilton. In its opinion, Formula 1 is not as popular as football. Furthermore, the Messi case was about clothing, and while there is a logical connection between football and football shirts, there is none between Formula 1 and watches.

At the end of the day, there was no title of World Champion or European trademark for Lewis Hamilton, but thankfully for him, a new year has begun, and he can leave 2021 behind him.     

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