Benjamin Raue

Wettbewerbseinschränkungen durch Markenrecht Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Auslegung der absoluten Schutzausschließungsgründe (§§ 3 Abs. 2, 8 Abs. 2 Nr. 1, 2 MarkenG/Art. 7 Abs. 1 lit. b, c, e GMV) bei neuen Markenformen

Volume 6 () / Issue 2, pp. 204-227 (24)

I. The economic approach to trademark law is largely positive. Trademarks facilitate modern competition: They lower search costs of consumers, make entrepreneurial achievements visible and secure advertising investments as well as the development of a product image. Still, like any other absolute right, trademarks also have a restrictive effect on the individual freedom of others. This paper aims to show that a high level of registered trademarks increases general transaction costs and erects market entry barriers. Therefore, the registration offices in Germany and the EU should consider a more restrictive approach towards signs with little or no inherent distinctiveness. II. In addition, three-dimensional marks and decorative figurative marks restrict product competition if they are identical with the product or a substantial part thereof. In this case, they may grant an exclusive, potentially eternal right to exploit the natural attraction value of a design, a symbol or a piece of art. Such a trademark protection compromises the balance of interest underlying the other intellectual property rights, namely the incentive to create new intellectual goods and their optimal distribution. First, society pays for attractive immaterial goods by granting an exclusive property right for a limited time. Then, after the expiration of the right, society has a strong interest to use the immaterial goods without further restriction. Consequently, only a consistent focus on the main function of a trademark, to indicate the origin of a good, may avoid a dysfunctional overlap of property rights. 1. This requires a functional, not a narrow application of sec. 3 para 2 MarkenG / art. 7 para 1 lit e CTMR. On these grounds, the ECJ has excluded all technical solutions from trademark protection irrespective of technical alternatives. This consequent interpretation should be expanded to aesthetic signs if their natural attraction value contributes significantly to the aesthetic value of the product. Therefore, the trademark exclusion should not be limited to products which are exclusively bought because of their design. Good design should be excluded from trademark protection in all product categories in which product design plays a substantive role in the consumer decision. The appropriate protection for the non-recurrent achievement to create design is copyright and design protection. 2. This rationale applies to decorative figurative trademarks, too. Mona Lisa or the Smiley symbol on a T-Shirt make the product. On the other hand, printed on a small identifying tag they might serve as an indication of origin. As a consequence, those decorative marks may be registered only if there is a likely use of the sign as a trademark. A purely decorative use of the sign by competitors remains lawful after registration as it is not used as an indication of origin. However, the mere registration of such a sign as trademark has a deterrent effect on the lawful use of the sign. A disclaimer in the trademark register could mitigate this anticompetitive effect. The Community Trademark Regulation provides such a solution. The German Trademark Act does not mention a waiver of protection but it should seriously be considered to introduce it. Dem Markenrecht wird eine fast ausschließlich positive Wirkung auf den Wettbewerb zugeschrieben. Tatsächlich: Es senkt Suchkosten der Verbraucher, macht unternehmerische Leistungen sichtbar und sichert Werbeinvestitionen sowie den Aufbau eines Produktimages ab. Wie jedes absolute Recht schränkt es aber auch Freiheiten Dritter ein. Der Beitrag zeigt auf, dass ein hoher Registerstand die Transaktionskosten erhöht und Marktzutrittsbarrieren errichtet. Außerdem können Formmarken und dekorative Bildmarken in die Freiheit des Produktwettbewerbs eingreifen und die ausbalancierte Interessenabwägung der übrigen Immaterialgüterrechte aus dem Gleichgewicht bringen. Durch eine konsequente Ausrichtung des Markenrechts a

Benjamin Raue ist Inhaber des Lehrstuhls für Zivilrecht, Recht der Informationsgesellschaft und des Geistigen Eigentums an der Universität Trier und Direktor des Instituts für Recht und Digitalisierung Trier (IRDT).