Misleading business-to-consumer information may lead to significant fines. Two recent Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decisions prove that the HCA has maintained its position as a watchdog of both consumer rights and fair competition. In both cases, the companies were investigated by the HCA because they had omitted to tell customers important information, thereby harming them.
In 2017 the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) initiated a sector inquiry into the bank card acceptance market. Although the market was found to be competitive and functioning in accordance with the relevant regulations, the HCA has made a number of recommendations to both the legislature and market players in order to stimulate further growth.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office recently granted the cancellation of the mark MINIME on the basis that the term 'mini me' had been widely used with regard to 3D printing services before the mark's filing date. Although the owner of the mark argued that the term had been used by others for only a short time before the mark's filing date, in special circumstances, even a relatively short period of use of a term by third parties can be sufficient for the term to become known by the relevant public.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) recently refused to register a mark on the basis that the opponent had proved its prior mark's reputation in a substantial part of the European Union. The applicant requested a review by the Metropolitan Tribunal, contesting the significance of the HIPO's decision for Hungary if reputation could be proved only in other EU member states. As the tribunal had doubts in this regard, it referred the case to the European Court of Justice for the first time.
Decathlon – one of the biggest sportswear companies in Europe – has a defensive trademark policy under which its reputed EU trademark is protected for all goods and services in Classes 1 to 42, including sporting activities, as well as services in Classes 41 and 42. However, the applicant in a recent case was clever enough to limit the scope of its application to register the coloured mark DUNATHLON VEDD BE A KANYART to special services, thereby limiting the authorities' examination of a potential conflict.
Parliament recently adopted a new law amending several sectorial laws concerning the processing of personal data. The new law aims to provide clarity in these areas and has amended the general rules of the Labour Code. It has also introduced a new chapter which sets out general rules on the handling of employee data. Although the amendments of the existing rules on the processing of employee data have been eagerly awaited, many practitioners have expressed their disappointment.
An applicant filed to register the combination word mark R.E.D. RÓNA ENERGY DRINK, which was opposed by the owner of the RED BULL mark. The applicant argued that there was no likelihood of confusion, as the term 'Róna' (ie, plain) was the distinctive element of the applied-for mark. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal disagreed, finding that the central element of the applied-for mark was the acronym 'R.E.D.'.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has launched a market study to explore the specific market developments relating to the application of digital comparison tools and their effects on consumers' decision making. The market study puts the HCA's mid-term digital consumer protection strategy paper into action and demonstrates the HCA's recent focus on consumer protection and efforts to serve as a lighthouse in the digital age.
Colour combinations could be protected as trademarks under the previous Trademark Act 1969. However, single colours have only been protectable as trademarks since Hungary joined the European Union and harmonised its trademark law therewith. A recent Metropolitan Court of Appeal case concerning a colour mark for a shade of violet, which was used on chocolate packaging, is a notable example of the application of the rules on colour marks during the enforcement phase.
In a recent dispute between the inventor and marketer of a food supplement gel, the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office, the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Metropolitan Court of Appeal had to determine the true owner of the associated word and device marks. Using EU case law as a guide, they considered the market situation, including the knowledge of consumers, and applied the principle of registration and the rule of good faith.
In a recent trademark dispute between Facebook and the owner of the applied-for mark 'mbook – ablak a világra' (ie, 'window to the world'), the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office, the Metropolitan Tribunal and the Metropolitan Court of Appeal came to the same decision on the merits and rejected the applied-for mark, albeit for different reasons. This result is logical, as the Facebook mark is one of the most well known with regard to communication services.
The Office of Economic Competition recently fined the owner of the REXONA mark HUF30 million following an investigation into an ad which compared Rexona Invisible and NIVEA Invisible antiperspirant. The case demonstrates the important role that trademarks play in comparative advertising, as the decision discussed the REXONA and NIVEA marks which appeared in the TV ads and the fine – which is arguably high – was the result of the volume of products sold under the REXONA mark.
After a record-breaking Black Friday promotion, an online retailer is now suffering the consequences. According to the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA), eMAG may have failed to meet the standards of professional diligence by misleading consumers with its 2018 Black Friday campaign. This action was one of the first to be initiated under the umbrella of the HCA's digital consumer protection strategy paper.
In Hungary, as is the case in other EU countries, recent economic growth has been accompanied by a labour shortage. Under pressure to find a solution, the government introduced a new law to amend the working time rules. Since its adoption, the new law has come under close scrutiny from opposition parties and trade unions, and in December 2018 thousands of people took to the streets to protest what has become known as the 'slave act'.
In a recent case, the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) held that the services covered by two conflicting marks were not similar and granted the applied-for mark protection in Class 35. In this regard, the HIPO took a traditional approach, bearing in mind the marks' classification and examining only the services in Class 35, which were different. However, on review, the Metropolitan Tribunal took a different approach.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently published a strategy paper presenting its views on consumer protection in the digital age. The paper subtly indicates that the HCA will continue to follow the European Commission's guidance in this regard. It also highlights the measures which the HCA deems necessary to protect consumers and keep up with the developments and companies central to this process.
The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office recently refused to grant the word mark PAYSEND protection, holding that it is descriptive. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal disagreed, holding that the mark is a grammatically incorrect variation which does not in itself enable consumers to recognise the service which it designates. Rather, the mark comprises an invented word, which makes it distinctive.
An application was filed to register the term #lovetokaj for goods and services. The Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) refused to register the sign for goods, holding that the geographic name Tokaj, which is reputed and therefore cannot be registered as a trademark for wines, cannot be used for other products either. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal disagreed and ordered the HIPO to repeat its examination procedure.
Trademark owners often allege infringement of both the Trademark Act and the Act on the Prohibition of Unfair Market Behaviour in enforcement proceedings. However, the application of competition law in registration (ie, opposition) proceedings, as demonstrated in a recent case, is new to Hungarian case law. The legal basis for this case law is Section 5(2)(a) of the Trademark Act, which allows the Metropolitan Tribunal to link claims to other laws, including competition law.
In recent years, the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has seemingly aimed to foster cooperation between itself and market participants. Recent case law shows that the HCA strives for cooperation even when market participants allegedly commit grave infringements of the competition rules. Market participants are advised to harness this tendency and the HCA's willingness to reach decisions more efficiently.