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L’Oréal wins ‘smells just like …’ case

For those of you in the beauty trade, you’ll be interested to learn that l’Oréal has won its four-year legal battle against companies that advertise the similarities of ‘smell-alike’ imitations. What the other companies were doing was advertising their own, cheaper, imitation products as “smells just like Trésor” for example. They supplied retailers with comparison lists, which simply reproduced the brand names of l’Oréal’s perfumes, listing the corresponding names of their imitation brands beside them. Strangely, whilst l’Oréal is unable to prevent third parties from selling perfumes that smell like its own, it is able to stop them from advertising the similarities of their smell-alike products.

The imitators argued they were merely carrying out a form of lawful comparative advertising, of the type often seen in newspapers and on billboards across the country. But L’Oréal complained that such use infringed its trademark rights and that the reputations of its luxury brands were being sullied by association with cheaper copies.

Some would argue that the European Court is giving well known brands wider protection under European trademark law, even in circumstances when consumers are not confused or misled by the use of someone’s trademark.

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