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Royal Shakespeare Name Only Sweet for Theater Group, Court Says

Juliet asked Romeo, “What’s in a name?” in one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays. A European Union court ruled quite a lot is in a name, upholding the Royal Shakespeare Company’s EU-wide rights to its moniker.

The EU General Court sided today with the theater company against Graz, Austria-based Jackson International Trading Co. Kurt D. Bruehl GmbH & Co. KG, which won the EU trademark rights in 2003 to use the Royal Shakespeare name for catering, food, alcohol and water.

The Austrian company “would benefit from the power of attraction, the reputation and the prestige” of the Royal Shakespeare name, the EU’s second-highest court ruled. The connotative link to the theater company “would give the applicant a commercial advantage over its competitors’ goods.”

Jackson International appealed after losing the rights in a 2009 decision by the EU’s trademark agency. The appeals board of the Office for Harmonization for the Internal Market had overturned the Austrian company’s claim because of the “strong likelihood” that it could “free ride” on the theater company’s “immense success and reputation in the U.K.”

Jackson International didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment on the decision.

Today’s ruling can be appealed to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The case is: T-60/10, Jackson International v. OHIM - Royal Shakespeare Company.

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