German trademark “MVP” canceled due to lack of distinctiveness

In Germany, waves of warning letters have become a nuisance to which SMEs in particular are exposed. Traditional infringements of competition law, such as sanctioned formal defects, have often been the target of warning letters. Now that the legislator has raised the hurdles for warnings under competition and copyright law, new areas are increasingly being sought in order to make money. Trademark law is also being used more and more frequently. In 2021, numerous online retailers who sell products under the label “MVP” were warned. The warnings were standardized and were not directed against the manufacturers of appropriately labeled goods, but against individual retailers, although they concerned different products. The warnings were based on a trademark “MVP”, which was registered for (sports) clothing, among other things, and which the warning party had acquired shortly before.

ASD applied to the German Patent and Trademark Office (DPMA) to cancel the “MVP” trademark and has now been successful. In its decision of February 20, 2024 (Ref. 0437/21 Lösch), the DPMA found that the trademark “MVP” is descriptive, declared it invalid and decided to cancel it. Pursuant to Section 8 (2) No. 2 MarkenG, signs may not be registered if they can only be used to describe features of the claimed trademark and service. The DPMA has determined that abbreviations must also be kept free for competitors if they are understandable for the relevant public and can be used descriptively. This also applies to “MVP” with regard to goods in classes 18, 24 and 25, such as sports bags, sports and gym clothing and fabrics. Since the relevant public is familiar with the abbreviation “MVP” as the title “Most Valuable Player”, which is awarded in many sports leagues in Germany to honor particularly deserving players, this abbreviation can also describe the quality and nature of the goods claimed in the context of the relevant public, according to the DPMA.

If you have any questions on the issues raised, please contact our specialists Thomas Hertl and Dr. Florian Eckert.