Supreme People’s Court ruling on Christian Dior 3D mark selected as a guiding case
On 24 December 2019 the Judicial Committee of China’s Supreme People’s Court listed the ruling on the Christian Dior 3D trademark of 26 April 2018 as Guiding Case 114. The judgment overturned the decisions of the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB), the Beijing IP Court and the Beijing High Court, which had refused the registration of Christian Dior’s 3D trademark. The Supreme People’s Court ruling will therefore be binding on Chinese courts.
The case concerns the bottle shape of Christian Dior’s perfume J'adore, which features the shape of a teardrop with a small globe on top and an oval-shaped lower end, ornamented with gold thread in circles along the narrow neck (see image below).
Christian Dior obtained the registration of this image as a 3D trademark in France in 2014. On 6 November 2014 it filed an application for international registration of this mark covering “perfumery, perfumes, eau de parfum, eau de toilette, eau-de-cologne” in Class 3, with extension to China.
On 13 July 2015 the China National IP Administration (CNIPA) refused the trademark on the grounds that the mark was “devoid of distinctiveness”. Then, on 22 February 2016 the TRAB confirmed the refusal on the same grounds; this was upheld by the Beijing IP Court and the Beijing High Court.
Christian Dior filed for retrial with the Supreme People’s Court, which announced its ruling on 26 April 2018, overturning the refusal decisions and ordering the TRAB to remake its decision. The court intended to point out and rectify the mistake committed by the previous administrative and judicial authorities, which had assessed the application as if it were a 2D mark and had failed to give the applicant a chance to supplement its application by submitting a set of pictures illustrating the mark’s 3D characteristics.
Therefore, the binding stipulations of this case are that, where it is specified in the filing documents of an international trademark application that it is three-dimensional, it should be examined as a 3D rather than a 2D trademark application. Further, the mark office should offer the applicant an opportunity to submit any missing documentation (eg, a 3D view) even though this obligation is not explicitly provided in the law in respect of international trademark applications.
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