The EU's General Court ruled on Tuesday that there would be "a likelihood of confusion for the non-English-speaking part of the relevant public" should it permit Xiaomi's 'Mi Pad' brand to be registered as an EU trade mark.
Relevant to the Court's decision was the "high degree of visual and phonetic similarity" it said existed between the Mi Pad mark and Apple's existing iPad trade mark, as well as the fact that the two marks relate to similar goods and services.
Under EU trade mark laws, trade mark owners generally have the right to restrict the use of signs that are identical or similar to the ones they hold rights to for identical or similar goods or services that the a protected mark covers where the public is likely to be confused and link ownership of the sign to the trade mark holder.
Xiaomi first filed an application for registration of a European trade mark for its Mi Pad sign before the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) in April 2014. However, in August 2014, Apple initiated opposition proceedings on the grounds that it had existing trade mark rights in the 'iPad' name in respect of the two classes of goods that Xiaomi was seeking to register its mark for.
Apple's opposition to the registration was upheld by the Opposition Division of the EUIPO in December 2015 and again by the First Board of Appeal of EUIPO in September 2016, following a Xiaomi challenge against the earlier decision.
The General Court's decision, which found that the Board of Appeal had not "erred in any way whatsoever" in respect of its findings on the likelihood of confusion, can be appealed by Xiaomi to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), the EU's highest court.