Looking for a hotel in France? Why not a palace?

Published onAugust 2015

Maybe you asked yourselves that very same question in the past few weeks and maybe you decided otherwise for financial reasons. But you might be interested in knowing that the mark PALACE is not that exclusive anymore.

Actually, the French collective mark PALACE was cancelled earlier this year with regard to all designated services in class 43, including hotel services (1).

Until then, the mark (2) was owned by the Economic Interest Group ATOUT FRANCE, the official agency in charge of developing tourism in France, and in charge of awarding the “Palace distinction”, above the 5-star ranking, to hotels with exceptional characteristics (3).

In 2011, the E.I.G. ATOUT FRANCE refused to award the “Palace distinction” to The Ritz Hotel Ltd. running the hotel “Le Ritz” in Paris. The Ritz Hotel stroke back and filed a cancellation action against the mark PALACE for lack of distinctive character.

The Court of Appeals of Paris granted the request as regards services in class 43. How could it be otherwise?

The word palace has a commonly-established definition as a luxury hotel which can be found in French dictionaries (and even in Wikipedia according to the judges). As such, it does not fulfil the distinctiveness requirement set by Article L.711-2 of French Intellectual Property Code (4).

Does it mean that anyone can use the name Palace to attract consumers to their hotels or establishments? Of course not. This is just how far trademark law can go. The PALACE trademark does not exist anymore for services in class 43 but the “Palace distinction” remains an officially regulated label, which means that anyone using it without proper authorization may face administrative proceedings instituted by government agencies in charge of fighting fraud, or even judicial proceedings from competitors on the grounds of unfair competition or for violation of the Consumer Code.

Let that not prevent you from spending a nice holiday…

© INSCRIPTA

(1) Court of Appeals of Paris, section 5, 1st chamber, 13 January 2015.

(2) French trademark registration No.3780003 of 5 November 2010, originally designating numerous services in classes 35, 39, 41, 43 and 44 (collective mark since 6 December 2010).

(3) The “Palace distinction” was introduced in France by a Governmental order of 8 November 2010.

(4) “[…] The following shall not be of a distinctive nature: […] b) Signs or names which may serve to designate a feature of the product or service, particularly the type, quality, quantity, purpose, value, geographical origin, time of production of the goods or furnishing of the service […]”.