AS Estiko, a company owned by Reform Party member Neinar Seli, was blocked from registering a trademark for the name "Stenbock" by the Patent Office following an appeal from the Government Office. Estiko wished to use the name for a new meat restaurant.
The Patent Office had initially agreed to allow AS Estiko to use the name "Stenbock," after the company applied to register it as a trademark in July 2018, with the process completed by March the following year. However, the decision was later reversed following an April 2019 appeal by the Government Office.
Stenbock House is the name of the official seat of the Government of Estonia and the Government Office. The Government Office objected to the the name's use by Estiko on the grounds that it may mislead the public into believing a restaurant named "Stenbock" has government affiliations.
The Government Office argued that, as there is no connection between the proposed restaurant and the performance of functions representative of the Estonian State, AS Estiko had no legitimate right to use the name for business purposes.
"By registering the contested trademark, the public (consumers) may be misled as to the characteristics and origin of the services being provided," said a statement by a Government Office representative.
Of concern to the Government Office, was the potential for people to be misled into believing that the caterers at Stenbock House, who usually provide services for visiting leaders and delegates, could be hired for private use at parties or weddings.
According to the statement, "The applicant must have been aware that registering the trademark application would undermine the rights of those previously using the Stenbock House name, take unfair advantage of its reputation for their own interests and, more generally, interfere with the activities of (the Government Office)."
The Government Office also pointed out that, as many important political decisions are made at restaurant tables, a restaurant bearing the "Stenbock" name may create further potential for confusion when communicating information to the public.
"If, for example, the restaurant is named 'Stenbock' and news comes out in the press or on social media that an important (political) decision or declaration has been made at Stenbock, the public may mistakenly be led to believe that the Government of the Republic is somehow involved in that decision or declaration," the statement continued.
In response, a representative of AS Estiko, argued that the name "Stenbock" is associated, first and foremost, with Count Jakob Pontus Stenbock, who was a member of the Swedish nobility and landowner with an estate on Hiiumaa. The representative also noted that "stenbock" is the Estonian word for a form of mountain goat or ibex.
"The idea behind the application for the trademark 'Stenbock' was simply (for the name of) a meat restaurant. The public does not associate the designation (of the name) with the provision of catering services by Stenbock House, but may associate it with the seat of government," said Estiko's representative. "If the public does not perceive Stenbock House to be a catering establishment, then there can be no confusion as to the origin and nature of the services (provided)," the representative argued.
Despite Estiko representatives' insistence that the company had no intention of using the Stenbock name to foster associations with Stenbock House as a means of generating publicity for the restaurant, the Board of Appeal at the Patent Office maintained that the contested trademark nevertheless had the potential to mislead customers.
"The Board considers that the absence of the word 'House' from the contested trademark does not alter the distinctive element, which makes it important and memorable for consumers, nor does it reduce the risk that consumers will make confusing associations between the name in question and the Government Office," the board stated in an explanatory memorandum.
"The registration of the contested trademark would therefore be contrary to the public interest," the commission concluded.
Editor: Michael Cole