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Intellectual Property Journal. Volume 22 (2010), p. 321-334.


Comparative Advertising; Competition; Freedom of Expression; Trade-marks


L’Oréal v. Bellure is a remarkable case. The ruling of the European Court of Justice, as reluctantly applied by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, protects the plaintiff’s trade-mark rights against free-riding and prohibits the defendants from taking any commercial advantage of the reputation attaching to the plaintiff’s famous perfume brands. In doing so, it limits free competition and commercial expression without identifying any real harm (consumer confusion, blurring or tarnishment of the marks) or providing any clear public benefit that would justify such intervention. In this article, I argue that the case reflects a perception of trade-mark rights as private property, and the owner of a valuable trade-mark as morally entitled to absolute protection due to his investment in the creation of the brand. In Canada, we should learn from this ruling, prepare to avoid the mistakes of the ECJ in future comparative advertising cases, and protect the rights and interests of Canadian traders and the public against any similar expansion of trade-mark protection.

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