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Feline defeats Jaguar

Legal disputes which Jaguar and Puma Energy are embroiled in have been widely followed for some time now. The proceedings were initiated by Jaguar against Puma Energy, the primary contention being that the logos of both these companies display similar optical representations of wild felines.

We are no strangers to the words “Jaguar” and “Puma Energy”. Due to widespread globalization and industrialization, whenever we hear these words, our minds are automatically diverted to the brands rather than the wild felines. “Jaguar” or “Jaguar Land Rover Limited” is a household name. It is a British multinational company that is engaged in the manufacture and selling of luxury and sports cars whereas “Puma Energy” or “Puma Energy International SA” is a Swiss multinational company known all over the world for their strong hold over the distributorship of petroleum products.

The popular brand Puma Energy became what it is in 1929. The coveted Jaguar logo was adopted in the year 1945, which remained more or less same until the 2000s, following which it was subject to some revision. Both brands have well-known trademarks and have production and distribution units all over the globe. In European Union Intellectual Property Office, Jaguar owned three trademark numbers covering all the classes of goods according to Nice Classification whereas Puma Energy is the owner of the registration in Europe covering the classes 1, 4, 9, 16, 19, 35, 36, 37, 39, 43 in goods and services.

While they were able to carry on their respective businesses without disturbance or losses due to the differing nature of goods and services the two brands were engaged in manufacturing and distributing. Problems had been brewing between the two brands for a while given the identical nature of their logos which were deemed to be confusing by Jaguar. However, it should be noted that while both the logos display wild felines, there are distinct differences, which seem sufficient in helping the general consumer in their understanding of the company. These contrasting features are mainly:

  • The Jaguar logo displays an extremely detailed and describable optical representation of the animal-Jaguar whereas the Puma Energy logo contains an undefined wild feline that has no visible representations through which a person can describe it.
  • The Jaguar logo displays a Jaguar in a position in which it may be assumed that it is pouncing whereas the Puma Energy logo shows the feline in the midst of running.
  • The Jaguar logo displays the animal pouncing towards the left whereas the Puma Energy logo displays the feline running towards the right.

With these arguments in place, the EUIPO rejected the claim that the two trademarks are capable of causing confusion among consumers. It further held that the choice of depicting a feline as a trademark does not warrant a high level of distinctiveness as far as trademarks are concerned. While both the marks are similar, it is unlikely that they will create confusion given that both brands are prominent and hold enough goodwill and reputation amongst their customers. When their basis of similarity was argued, it was turned down by the learned court as it considered generic features such as tail or feet of the animal being displayed cannot be brought under the ambit of trademark infringement. The aforementioned differences were later held up during the proceeding and Jaguar’s plea was rejected.

It can thus be concluded that while visual similarity is a solid ground for trademark infringement, it must also be established that the infringing mark should be deceptively similar to such a degree that it is capable of causing confusion in the minds of the consumers with respect to the goods and services offered by the business. Neither are applicable to this case as both the companies in questions are long-established businesses with sufficient reputation for the kind of goods and services and class of goods and services they deal with.

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