BULGARIA: No Unfair Competition When Using a Descriptive Term
In a recent decision, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria explored the relationship between trademarks and unfair commercial practices. It denied claims of unfair competition brought by Ital Foods against The Bakers and New Bakery alleging that the term “bruschette” used on a competitor’s snack product can be misleading to consumers (case no. 4302/2018).
The complainant and appellant, Ital Foods, sells a popular snack product branded BRUSCHETTE MARETTI. It holds a number of design registrations for the product packaging, as well as trademark registrations for its logo and for the term “брускети” (“bruchette” in Cyrillic).
The co-defendants, The Bakers and New Bakery, are marketing a similar snack product under the brand KRAMBALS BRUSCHETTA.
In its judgment dated June 28, 2021, the Court reviewed the matter on appeal and confirmed the Commission for Protection of Competition’s decision that “bruschette” is a generic term. As a result, Ital Foods’ complaint for breach of the law against unfair competition was rejected.
The complaint was brought under the unfair competition legislation, which prohibits “parasitic” practices, that is, the use of designations like trade names, trademarks, or geographical indications resembling those of other persons, when this may harm the interests of competitors. The law aims to prevent competitors from free-riding on the popularity of a certain product through the use of a designation, which consumers already associate with the existing popular product.
According to the Court, the term “bruschette” designates a dish from Italian cuisine. The term is also commonly used in Bulgaria for toasted bread snack foods made with a variety of flavors. The Court found that despite the popularity of BRUSCHETTE MARETTI, consumers do not necessarily link the term with the complainant’s product. Rather, the Court found it to be a nondistinctive term, widely used for snack foods.
Considering the significantly different labeling and packaging of KRAMBALS BRUSCHETA (as seen above), the common term “bruschette” alone would not mislead consumers about the commercial origin of the defendant’s product. Therefore, the plaintiff’s allegations of parasitism were unfounded.
By Dimitar Batakliev, Head of Office, PETOŠEVIĆ Bulgaria
This article first appeared in the INTA Bulletin and was reprinted with permission from the International Trademark Association (INTA).
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