On March 6, 2024, the General Court of the European Union ( the Court) released its decision in Puma SE v European Union Intellectual Property Office (T‑647/22), finding Puma SE’s (Puma’s) registration for a sneaker design (the Contested Design) invalid because it was disclosed on social media by singer, Rihanna, prior to Puma’s filing to register the Contested Design. 

The Intervenor, Handelsmaatschappij J. Van Hilst BV, filed an application for a declaration of invalidity of the Contested Design with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in July 2019. Following its review of the matter, the EUIPO found that the Contested Design that was applied for in 2016 was invalid because it lacked individual character within the meaning of Articles 4(1) and 6 of Regulation No 6/2002 (the Regulation), due to being disclosed more than 12 months before the filing date. The Contested Design was disclosed in 2014 in the form of Instagram images posted by Rihanna and in several news sources that reproduced the posted images.

Puma appealed the EUIPO’s decision to the Court, arguing that (i) the EUIPO incorrectly concluded that the application for a declaration of invalidity of the Contested Design was admissible; and (ii) the evidence before the EUIPO was insufficient to demonstrate prior disclosure of the Contested Design in accordance with the Regulation.

In support of its first argument, Puma took the position that in filing the application the Intervenor infringed certain contractual obligations between it and Puma; acted in bad faith because the filing was for purposes extraneous to the nature of the proceeding; and ultimately used the application in a way that amounts to an abuse of rights. However, the Court rejected Puma’s allegations, finding them irrelevant as a defence in the invalidity proceeding.

In support of its second argument, Puma alleged, among other things, that fans did not take an interest in the shoes when they were featured in Rihanna’s 2014 Instagram post and, instead, focused on Rihanna herself. The Court was not persuaded by this argument and stated that in 2014 “Rihanna was a world-famous pop star” with both her fans and others in the fashion sector being interested in the shoes she posted. Therefore, the Court found that it was reasonable for people to closely study the photos of the shoes posted to see the exact style she was wearing, and the Instagram photos were sufficient to conclude that the design had been disclosed within the relevant period.

This ultimately led the Court to agree with the EUIPO and dismiss the action with costs.

Summary By: Victoria Di Felice



24 04 03

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