On the Distinctiveness of QR Code Symbols for the Purposes of Trademark Law

Osman Bugra Beydogan


The contactless new normal dictated by the global pandemic has re-introduced the nearly three-decade-old QR codes as a new standard of conveyance of information. Not only are they now ubiquitous to the general public but also inseparable to social, commercial and bureaucratic life. Recent history has been witnessing plenty of technical and artistic effort to make these normally abstract and unattractive clusters of dark and light quadratic shapes more eye-catching. In commercial terms, this is particularly motivated by the aim of rendering the code symbols a point of attraction as such, thus securing a more engaging customer interaction. Customized QR codes, having often been associated with brand images and commercial identities, are observed to come closer to the proximity of trademark law. However, the ubiquity and the technically necessary format standards of QR symbols tend to root against the primary premise of the trademarks: distinctiveness. This article seeks to answer whether the signs consisting of or incorporating QR symbols could fulfill the distinctiveness requirement within the framework of the EU law. Given the lack of jurisprudential apprehension of the question at hand, the article, first, sets about reasoning a distinctiveness test on the face of the EU trademark law and that of the relatable jurisprudential interpretations. Secondly, it goes on to administer this test on the signs that consist of or incorporate QR symbols. In the latter respect, limited jurisprudential hints from the Member States and the EUIPO practices shall be put in perspective and compounded with the imperatives of substantive law. The article, consequently substantiates that there is no one-fits-all formula to the question at hand and that QR symbols shall not be excluded as trademarks merely because they are essentially standardized.


standard of conveyance of information; QR codes; trademark; distinctiveness

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/sil.2022.31.4.29-57
Data publikacji: 2022-12-28 17:32:56
Data złożenia artykułu: 2022-09-26 10:23:43


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