A claim by a firm in Bulgaria that the iconic Osborne bull in Spain is a breach of copyright has been thrown out by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – and sparked mirth among Spanish-speakers.
The plaintiff’s attempt to register its brand ‘Torro’ was rejected by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) because of its similarity with the Spanish word for ‘bull’, toro, would cause confusion among English speakers’.
Phonetically and visually, the EUIPO ruled, ‘Torro’ is the same as toro for the Anglo-Saxon world, although in practice this is not the case since a double-R is ‘rolled’ and sounds very different to a single R.
The bull, known as the ‘Toro de Osborne’, is not just the stamp of the Spanish liqueur manufacturer, but also, unofficially, a flagship symbol of Spain – its exact shape is reproduced on mugs, ashtrays and other souvenir items across the country.
And two giant black panels in the shape of the Osborne bull are set up on the grass verges above the AP-7 motorway through the eastern region of the Comunidad Valenciana – one in Tavernes de la Valldigna, in the south of the province of Valencia, on a plot of land owned by a local restaurant, and another between Benidorm and Alicante.
The former has suffered numerous incidents of vandalism by Catalán language and culture extremists who believe the Comunidad Valenciana is an extension of Catalunya and should be part of an independent State, and who consider that the bull is ‘too Spanish’.
An appeal was brought to the ECJ by the Bulgarian company but has been rejected this week in a verdict that upheld the decision of the EUIPO.
“The similarities are sufficient to conclude that there is a risk of confusion between Torro and toro,” says the ECJ, “even where the names represent brands offering products or services that are very dissimilar, since the public may believe that the companies involved are linked to each other.”
Bulgaria’s Torro creators now have two months to lodge a subsequent appeal to the ECJ.