Split verdict in Unibet v. PMU trademark infringement dispute

TAGs: PMU, trademark infringement, Unibet

unibet-pmu-trademark-infringementThe Paris Court of First Instance has issued its verdict on the trademark dispute between online gaming operator Unibet and former French horse-betting monopoly Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU). PMU had accused Unibet of violating trademarks PMU held on the names of certain betting services, specifically relating to horse betting.

The terms in question — Simple, Couplé, Trio, Tiercé, Quarté+, Quinté+, 2sur4 and Multi – were trademarked by PMU shortly before France liberalized its gaming market in May of this year. Trouble is, the names of these betting services were not created by PMU, but were established by government decrees which authorized PMU to create such bets.

When Unibet entered the French market, it used the same terminology to identify these types of bets on horse races. Obviously still clinging to its former monopoly mentality, PMU lost its shit and hit Unibet with claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition and parasitism.

In response, Unibet requested that the court cancel PMU’s trademarks, on the grounds that they were (a) registered in bad faith, since PMU created neither the bets nor the bet names; and (b) the trademarks were generic and denoted an essential characteristic of betting on the ponies.

In its ruling, the Paris Court of First Instance rejected PMU’s trademark infringement claims, essentially affirming Unibet’s counterargument that PMU had acted in bad faith by attempting to trademark something it had no part in creating. PMU was judged to have attempted to use trademark law in order to create an anti-competitive advantage. Like we said, those monopolistic instincts die hard.

However, PMU won a partial victory when the court ruled that, in using the same color coding as PMU to identify the types of bets on their web site, Unibet had committed ‘acts of parasitism’ against PMU. Unibet has therefore been ordered to pay €50k to PMU and to refrain from using such colors in the future.

Next on the docket, PMU v. the director of the movie Seabiscuit, for having the gall to depict a quadriped in motion on a muddy track without PMU’s permission.


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