Would you recognize this car by its shape? It’s a rhetorical question. The Volkswagen bus from 1950, also known as the T1 or “Samba”, is an iconic model. The bus is so popular that it is now even for sale again as a fully electric car. Volkswagen knows that too, of course. In 2017, VW applied for the shape of this van as a trademark.
However, this seems easier than it is. The European Trademark Authorities are very strict when it comes to the admission of shape marks. The reasoning is that the average consumer is not inclined to see the pure vorm of a product as a distinguishing sign. Words and logos: yes, but the form itself, that is difficult to do unless that form is provably established.
It is therefore nice to see that – albeit after four years of litigation – Volkswagen has been successful with the European Trademark Office. The Board of Appeal has ruled that the shape of the bus itself, even without proven integration, is so special that it can be admitted as a trademark. Good news for Volkswagen and for all other brand owners. Very carefully, the door for shape brands now seems to open a little further.