Le Cordon Bleu Succeeds on Appeal

Wednesday 20th June 2012

Le Cordon Bleu, the famous French culinary school, recently won its appeal to register its name in relation to meat, poultry and game and meat extracts in New Zealand.  Baldwins represented Le Cordon Bleu at the hearings before the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand and the High Court.

Le Cordon Bleu’s application was rejected by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, and by a hearings officer, because it was said to be a laudatory term which lacked distinctive character.  The hearings officer held that “cordon bleu” meant something of high quality, and the addition of the word “Le” did not save the application.

The High Court overturned the hearings officer’s ruling finding that:

  1. “Le” adds a distinctive element.
  2. “Le Cordon Bleu” is a proper noun used exclusively by Le Cordon Bleu for over 100 years.
  3. The French nature of the mark introduces an “exotic flavour”.
  4. The translation of “Le Cordon Bleu” is “the blue ribbon” and that has no direct literal connection to meat, poultry and game, and meat extracts.

The success in the High Court coincides nicely with the opening of the first Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in New Zealand in September this year.  It was also an important case for Le Cordon Bleu as it was the only application to be rejected by the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, and the success in the High Court complements its existing trade mark portfolio in New Zealand.

Like the Champagne case in the 1990s, the win by Le Cordon Bleu in the High Court demonstrates that New Zealand consumers are discerning, and appreciate the qualities that these trade marks denote.

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