Registering Foreign Word Marks in Australia

/ Irena Fizulic / Important Updates

Registering foreign word marks in Australia (the effect of the High Court decision in Cantarella Bros Pty Limited v Modena Trading Pty Limited concerning the trade marks “ORO” and “CINQUE STELLE”)

It appears from the recent High Court decision in Cantarella Bros Pty Limited v Modena Trading Pty Limited that it should now be easier to obtain trade mark registration in Australia for marks containing foreign words.  This case considered the registrability of the Italian words “ORO” and “CINQUE STELLE”  which mean “gold” and “five stars” respectively in English.

The High Court has clarified that the registrability of foreign words should be assessed in the same way as English words, namely by examining whether the word will convey a “tangible” meaning to anyone in Australia and the “ordinary significance” of that word to anyone who will encounter the goods in Australia.  In applying the “ordinary signification” test, the Court noted that the Italian words “oro” and “cinque stelle” did not convey a meaning or idea “sufficiently tangible to anyone in Australia concerned with coffee goods”. Further, the Court noted that the words “oro” and “cinque stelle”  are not “directly descriptive” of coffee, but rather “allusive” and metaphorical. Accordingly, the Court held that the marks “oro” and “cinque stelle” are inherently adapted to distinguish Cantarella’s goods from the goods of other traders and are therefore registrable.

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