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Cancellation of GARUM and GARUM ARMORICUM trademarks

Vanessa Bouchara

Updated on April 12, 2021

Cancellation of the GARUM and GARUM ARMORICUM trademarks for lack of distinctive character

By Judgment of March 6, 2014 (TGI Paris, 3rd ch. 1st sect., March 6, 2014, No. 11/16210), the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris declared the trademarks GARUM and GARUM ARMORICUM of the company COMPAGNIE GENERALE DE DIETETIQUE null and void for lack of distinctive character.


t is specialized since 1973 in the design and manufacture of food supplements and dietetic products, which are marketed in France and abroad. Within the framework of this activity, she created, under the name GARUM ARMORICUM, a food supplement with beneficial effects for memory, concentration and psycho-emotional balance, marketed under the umbrella brand STABILIUM since 1983.

It had registered several trademarks, including GARUM and GARUM ARMORICUM:

  • The French trademark GARUM ARMORICUM n° 1384517 on December 11, 1986 in classes 3, 5 and 29;
  • The French trademark GARUM n° 1703642 on October 30, 1991 in classes 5 and 29;
  • The European Union trademark GARUM ARMORICUM n°3497484 on October 31, 2003 in classes 3, 5 and 29;
  • The European Union trademark GARUM n° 3501939 on October 31, 2003 in classes 5 and 29.

In 2009, the Italian company CLAVIS, specialized in the manufacture and marketing of natural products and food supplements, created a food supplement called CLAVIS HAMONIAE to alleviate the effects of stress and fatigue. This supplement was composed, among other things, of “garum armoricum”, and was marketed in this sense.

Believing that the use of the term “garum armoricum” for food supplements constituted a use of its trademark in violation of its rights, the company COMPAGNIE GENERALE DE DIETETIQUE then summoned this company on the basis of trademark infringement and unfair competition.

In its defense, CLAVIS requested that the trademarks be declared invalid for lack of distinctive character.

On the validity of the GARUM and GARUM AMORICUM trademarks

The Court noted that “garum armoricum” is, since antiquity, the common name in Latin of a fish extract originating from the Armorican region with beneficial effects for health.

Indeed, the term GARUM is a Latin term designating an autolysate of marine origin, used both as a condiment (as a sauce) and as a medicine, obtained from the viscera of different species of fish and known since ancient times for its beneficial health properties.

Moreover, the term AMORICUM only designates the geographical origin of the fish from which the autolysate is prepared, namely the Armorican region, present-day Brittany.

Consequently, the terms GARUM and AMORICUM are only used to describe the essential quality of the goods and services referred to in classes 5 and 29, and this, since the date of filing of the trademarks.

Therefore, since these terms are the necessary and usual designations for these ingredients, they must, in essence, remain accessible to all.

Thus, CLAVIS could legitimately exploit these terms which are devoid of distinctive character within the meaning of Article L.711-2 3° of the Intellectual Property Code, as well as Article 7 of Regulation EC 40/94 of September 20, 1993 (now repealed and replaced by Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 of June 14, 2017 on the European Union trademark).

It is thus natural that the claims on the basis of infringement were rejected by the ‘Tribunal de Grande Instance’, and that the request for nullity was upheld for lack of distinctiveness of the French  “Garum Armoricum” and the Community word  “Garum Armoricum” registered in class 29 for foodstuffs based on fish, crustaceans or mollusks or organs of such fish, crustaceans or mollusks and in class 5 for pharmaceutical products.

However, following an appeal filed by COMPAGNIE GENERAL DE DIETETIQUE, the Paris Court of Appeal partially reversed the decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in that it had cancelled the trademarks in question in their entirety, even though they were to be limited (CA Paris, Pôle 5 ch. 1, December 12, 2017, n°16/03473).

Indeed, the Court of Appeal recalls that, when a registered trademark is cancelled for lack of distinctiveness on the basis that it is descriptive, this cancellation must be limited to the goods and services for which the trademark is really descriptive.

The Court noted that the term garum corresponds to “ to an essential quality of the following products, for which it appears descriptive […] : Pharmaceutical, veterinary and hygienic products; dietetic products for children and patients; plasters, dressing materials; disinfectants; meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams; edible oils and fats; preserves, pickles […] canned fish, pickles, in that it describes the product or a characteristic of the product, in particular its method of manufacture. “ but that it would not appear descriptive for the following products: ” preparations for destroying weeds and pests; materials for sealing teeth and for dental impressions; ‘eggs, milk and other dairy products ‘.

The Court of Appeal then partially reversed the Tribunal’s decision and only retained the nullity of GARUM brands only for certain products, but maintained its validity for the ” preparations for destroying weeds and pests; materials for sealing teeth and for dental impressions; eggs, milk and other dairy products. “

However, it maintained the total cancellation of the GARUM ARMORICUM marks, holding that ” the sign garum armoricum designates the essential quality and the origin or a method of manufacture of the services designated in classes 5 and 29 by the French and Community trademarks, which is likely to mislead the public “.

On unfair and parasitic competition

In addition to the trademark infringement claims, COMPAGNIE GENERALE DE DIETETIQUE also sued CLAVIS for unfair competition and parasitic, for having reproduced on its website an article on the effects of Stabilium 200, the product marketed by the plaintiff company, which would constitute a misappropriation of investments, as well as for having replaced the term garum armoricum by garum exquisitus when it was using another species of fish

On March 6, 2014, the ‘Tribunal de Grande Instance’ ordered COMPAGNIE GENERALE DE DIETETIQUE to pay €30,000 in damages, holding that, even if the simple fact of taking up the essential composition of the product sold cannot be qualified as a wrongful attitude constituting Unfair competition, on the other hand, ” the fact of using studies initiated and financed by a competitor on its website in order to promote its product can be qualified as a parasitic act. “

However, the ‘Cour d’appel de Paris’, in its decision of December 12, 2017, also overturned the Court’s decision on this point, considering that COMPAGNIE GENERALE DE DIETETIQUE had not sufficiently demonstrated that it had financed the work of Dr. D, the author of the article reproduced on the CLAVIS website, and that, moreover, although part of the presentation of its Stabilium 200 product was also reproduced, this only concerned “three sentences”, and that these were only devoted to the ” essential composition of products with the same characteristics and dosage [qui] could not reveal parasitism, whereas garum is a product is a very old known product” (CA Paris, Pôle 5 ch. 1, December 12, 2017, n°16/03473).

Thus, the Court of Appeal dismissed the company COMPAGNIE GENERALE DE DIETETIQUE’s claims on the basis of unfair and parasitic competition.

However, since the French and European trademarks GARUM and GARUM ARMORICUM are indicated as still in force on the INPI and EUIPO databases, it is likely that an appeal in cassation has been filed against the Paris Court of Appeal’s decision.

Therefore, to conclude this case, it is necessary to wait for the decision of the ‘Cour  cassation’.

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