BGH: Work title protection for smartphone apps

Categories: 

The German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled that smartphone apps can – in principal – be protected as work titles (Case I ZR 202/14, Judgement of 28 January 2016).

Background of the Case and Subject Matter

The complainant operates a website that offers local weather data and other information about the topic weather under the domain “wetter.de” (Note: The German word “wetter” means “weather”). In 2009, the domain holder started to also provide this information as an application for mobile devices under the designation “wetter.de”

The defendant is holder of the domain “wetter.at” and “wetter-deutschland.com” and also provides weather data on the internet. In 2011, he also started an application under the designations “wetter DE”, “wetter-de” und “wetter-DE”.

The complainant is convinced that the behavior of the defendant infringes his commercial rights of the domain name and his application designation “wetter.de”. Therefore, he demands the defendant to cease and desist from further infringing actions and for damage compensation.

Decision of the BGH

First, the BGH notes that domain names relating to internet services and applications for mobile devices can in general be protected as work titles. But, the designation “wetter.de” for weather data is devoid of any distinctive character because it is just a description of the content of the offered services.

Finally, the court came to the result that the defendant was not able to prove that the requirement of distinctiveness can be neglected because of market recognition of at least 50 percent.

Press here to read the BGH’s press release in German.