The Dutch model Maartje Verhoef obtained trade mark registration for her photographic portrait.

Her application was first refused by the European Union Intellectual Property Office for lack of distinctive character. This decision was overruled by the Board of Appeal on 16 November 2017.

According to the Board of Appeal, the passport photo of a person, which depicts her unique features, is a way to identify this person, i.e. to distinguish this person from another. As a consequence, it also qualifies as a distinctive sign, allowing the public to identify the origin of the marked goods and services, hence fulfilling the essential function of a trade mark.

This recent case is a good example of the broad scope of protection afforded to trademarks in Europe.

Read the entire decision in Dutch on

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