Bottom of bicycle saddle visible

To qualify for design protection, a product must meet two requirements: it must be novel and have individual character. If the design is part of a composite product, there is an additional requirement. The design must be visible during normal use. But what exactly is normal use? The Court answers this using a special pattern of the bottom of a bicycle saddle.

A bicycle is a composite product. A saddle is part of a bicycle, because a bicycle cannot be used without one. When assessing normal use, is it about what you see when you use the product (i.e. when you are cycling)? In that case, the design of the bottom of a saddle cannot be a valid design. After all, as a cyclist, you cannot see the bottom of your saddle while cycling. Or should you explain normal use more broadly?

The European Court chooses the latter way. Normal use includes not only the purpose of the product (cycling), but also other uses (apart from maintenance and repair). After all, you store a bicycle in a bicycle rack or lift it to transport it. It falls under normal use when the bottom of a saddle shows. An important ruling for companies to protect the design of parts as a design and for companies offering alternatives to distance themselves from the original design.


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Puma is one of the bigger sports and lifestyle brands in the world. The core-business is the design, development and sale of (sports) shoes, (sports) clothing and accessories. In 1960, Puma registered an international trademark for a device designed in 1958: the formstrip. Since then, Puma has registered approximately 90 formstrip trademarks with validity in the Benelux or the European Union. Puma claims that this is a serial mark. Monshoe is a wholesaler of women's shoes and related products. The company designs and develops Monshoe shoes which it largely markets itself. Monshoe sells its women's shoes under the brands Shoecolate and Pearlz. The shoe Shoecolate is offered in various colour combinations. Puma claims that Monshoe infringes its well-known formstrip trademark. Monshoe contradicts this and states that the average consumer will not perceive the device of Monshoe on the sneakers as a trademark. And if the public will recognize a trademark in the decoration, it will not make the connection to Puma. According to Monshoe, the formstrip logo is not a well-known trademark within the meaning of the BVIE and the UMVo. There is no likelihood of confusion because the sign does not or hardly evoke any association with Puma among the public. In light of the above, who is right? Does this constitute decorative use or linking to a well-known trademark?