District Court finds that company linked to Michael Gleissner acted in bad faith
The activities of infamous trademark troll Michael Gleissner, as well as those of the companies that can be linked to him, have been covered extensively. In Latvia, Michael Gleissner carries out his dubious trademark filing activity through two companies: Grigorius Holdings and Fashion One Television. The former has had numerous opposition proceedings and successful court cases initiated against its trademarks, leading to the depletion of the company’s money reserves, as well as the auctioning of trademarks registered in the company’s name to settle its debts against the plaintiffs. However, Fashion One Television’s status in Michael Gleissner’s grand scheme was yet to be recognised by the Latvian courts.
This changed on 1 December 2021 when the City of Riga Vidzeme District Court issued a judgment against Fashion One Television’s registration for the word mark GORILLA in Latvia. The claim was brought by Corning Incorporated, the company responsible for, among other things, developing and manufacturing the world-renowned Gorilla® Glass, which can be found in a multitude of smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and laptops.
Board of Appeal decision
The dispute between the parties was first examined in opposition proceedings before the Industrial Property Board of Appeal. In those proceedings, Corning achieved the partial invalidation of the GORILLA mark based on a likelihood of confusion. However, the Board of Appeal rejected the opponent’s argument that the contested trademark had been applied for in bad faith, concluding that the board’s prior decisions recognising the applicant’s bad faith, as well as the applicant’s close commercial links to proven bad-faith trademark filer Grigorius Holdings, was insufficient evidence in the context of this particular case. Corning appealed to the court, raising a single claim against the defendant: its bad faith in applying to register the GORILLA word mark. In support of its claim, Corning asserted that the bad faith of the defendant had to be evaluated comprehensively – that is, the court must look at the commercial logic behind the defendant’s trademark application and, among other factors, assess the defendant’s lack of intent to actually use the contested trademark for its intended purpose. The court also had to take into account the large portfolios of unused trademarks that companies linked to Gleissner hold and use to bring non-use cancellation actions against third parties in other jurisdictions.
From the evidence before it, the court concluded that the defendant’s principal aim – generally and in this particular case – was clear: the defendant’s activities did not pursue a genuine intention of using the trademarks in commerce, nor of acting in the public interest or in the personal commercial interest of the defendant to cancel unused trademarks. The defendant’s trademark filings were of a purely artificial nature and aimed at gaining an unjustified advantage. Therefore, the plaintiff’s claim was upheld in full and the defendant’s GORILLA mark was invalidated in its entirety.
Notwithstanding the above conclusion, the court noted that a finding of bad faith does not necessarily carry consequences as to the validity of a contested trademark in absolute terms. If bad-faith intention cannot be sufficiently established with respect to all the goods and services listed in a trademark registration, such registration will be invalidated only partially.
This judgment is notable for two main reasons. Firstly, the confirmation of Fashion One Television’s bad faith in a case that does not involve the double identity of the parties’ trademarks helps to further cement the infamy of Michael Gleissner and the companies linked to him. Secondly, depending on how the enforcement of this judgment progresses, Fashion One Television’s trademarks may end up being auctioned, in the same way that Grigorius Holdings’ trademarks are currently available to the highest bidder.
* This article first appeared in WTR Daily, part of World Trademark Review, in (month/year). For further information, please go to www.worldtrademarkreview.com.