SPECIAL LETTERS IN TRADEMARKS – Å, Ä and Ö (SCANDINAVIAN)
Special letters, such as Scandinavian Å, Ä and Ö and their effects on trademark applications are not always clear. Å, Ä and Ö are generally a part of only a handful of languages but are sometimes an important part of an international brand. In most countries these letters are recognized in trademark applications, but it is good to stay vigilant in case your Ä turns into A during the process.
Here are good-to-know points of Å, Ä and Ö in trademarks, as well as examples on how trademark applications can be treated in different jurisdictions.
SCANDINAVIAN LETTERS IN TRADEMARK SIMILARITY
Overall, it can be assumed that the general public can be confused by the similarity of trademarks that are similar or identical outside of Scandinavian letters. For example, it would be extremely difficult to prove that EXAMPLE and EXÄMPLE are different enough. Visually the differences are already minimal. In countries where special letters are not used, Ä would also often be simply pronounced as A – This makes the perceived phonetic element virtually identical.
 For an EU perspective, Judgment of the General Court Case T-88/10 p. 30: “The umlaut over the ‘a’ of the mark applied for cannot be considered particularly to attract the attention of consumers in the Member States of the European Union whose languages do not use diacritics, at least on that letter, and thus it does not alter the fact that the letters ‘a’ and ‘ä’ are visually almost identical”
SCANDINAVIAN LETTERS IN TRADEMARK USE
General rule is that if your trademark has been successfully registered with special letters, your trademark should be used that exact way. Using EXAMPLE when you have a registration for EXÄMPLE may be a cause for non-use invalidation. If in another jurisdiction the trademark is clearly registered as EXAMPLE, you should aim towards not using Ä. Always make sure your trademark is used the way it is registered.
SCANDINAVIAN LETTERS IN EU TRADEMARKS
You can apply for trademarks using Scandinavian letters. A registration will include the relevant letters, which means that Ä will not change into A. If the special letters in question are not a part of any EU language, a figurative mark has to be applied for instead of a word mark. This applies for example for Chinese letters.
SCANDINAVIAN LETTERS IN US TRADEMARKS
Similarly, to the EU, you can apply for trademarks using Scandinavian letters in the United States normally.
SCANDINAVIAN LETTERS IN CHINESE TRADEMARKS
The official Chinese trademark database does not recognize Scandinavian letters, but trademark applications always have an image attached to the application. This means that a registered trademark with Ä will show as the intended word in the image, but the database lists it as A. The character of the trademark does not change despite the database’s change to A, as the image has the “true” trademark.
Article written by Matti Aulaskari