Not a ‘Cule’ decision: FC Barcelona Loses Trademark Fight to Kule

We’ve got some sad news for our FC Barcelona fans. The General Court of the European Union recently ruled against the football club FC Barcelona and in favour of an American fashion company named Kule, affirming a previous decision, that the football club had failed to prove the genuine use of the mark ‘Cule’.

For all our non-football fans, ‘Cule’ means a fan or supporter of the FC Barcelona. The issue first came up in 2011, when Kule had applied for an European Union trademark registration for ‘Kule’ at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The goods were sought to be registered in class 14 (jewellery and precious stones), class 18 (wallets, purses and trunks) and class 25 (clothing, footwear and headgear). In the same year, FC Barelona opposed this application stating that it infringed its trademark for ‘Cule’, which it had applied for registration in 1982 in the same classes, i.e, 14 (jewellery and medals), 18(Leather and imitations of leather) and 25 (shirts and socks).

In 2013, the Opposition Division rejected the opposition, and the club appealed the decision at the EUIPO. However, the Fourth Board of Appeal rejected the claim made by the club for reason of non-usage of the trademark. In the present suit the foot club claimed for the annulment of the contested decision. The football club sought for refusal of the application for registration of the trademark “Kule”  and also asked EUIPO and the intervener to pay the costs. To prove its case FC Barcelona put forth certain evidences. It stated that Spanish sports websites and Wikipedia made reference to the word ‘Cule’. As far as the sports websites are concerned,  the Court acknowledged that the references are made to ‘cule’ to refer to supporters or players of Fútbol Club Barcelona. However, the evidence does not support or prove that the earlier trademarks are used in connection with the goods concerned. Secondly, in case of the Wikipedia evidence, the Court first pointed out that the evidence does not demonstrate in any manner that trademarks were used in connection with the goods and that it is a well-settled law that the information in Wikipedia articles are not credible given the nature of its functioning, where the content can be edited by the visitors at times.

Hence ruling against the football club ,the General Court stated that “the applicant has not adduced evidence to show the place, time, extent or nature of use of the earlier trade marks in relation to the goods covered. Indeed, the documents produced by the applicant show that the Spanish term ‘culé’ is used in relation to Fútbol Club Barcelona, more specifically as a nickname bestowed upon its supporters or its players. However, the use of that term has not been proved in relation to the goods covered by the earlier trade marks.”

Authored by Anchita Sharma

Sources : 1, 2