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Umlaut does not make kitchens Germanic, says ASA

The company behind Moben Kitchens is not German. It is based on an industrial estate near Manchester – and its Möben trade mark, which appears to include an umlaut, does not mislead consumers, according to a ruling by the UK's advertising watchdog today.19 Apr 2006

Advert: Free OUT-LAW breakfast seminars, UK-wide: open source software; and data retentionGerman and Scandinavian kitchens are widely perceived as being of higher quality than British kitchens and a viewer of Moben's TV ad complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)the apparent use of the umlaut in the company's name implied that Moben was a German company.

According to Wikipedia, similar thinking influenced Dixons' choice for its own-brand electronics in the 1980s – hence the Japanese-sounding 'Matsui', for a company based in Hertfordshire.

Five years ago, the ASA ruled against Moben in response to a similar complaint and ordered the firm to remove the little dots from its printed ads.

But this time the ASA was more forgiving. It referred to the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre which said that using a German-sounding name did not imply that Moben or its products were German. It pointed out that Prêt a Manger's sandwiches were unlikely to be considered French.

Moben said 'Möben' has been a registered trade mark since 1977. It denies trying to boost its credibility with an umlaut. Rather, it has argued that the dots are an artistic device and that any resemblance with an umlaut is coincidental. The dots appear on its signs but not in text in its ads or in the text of its website.

After the last ASA ruling, it altered its press advertising to make clear that it was a British company. It said it would be happy to add a similar disclaimer to its TV ads.

The ASA welcomed that offer – but concluded that umlauts are used in countries other than German (they can be found in Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein) and that viewers would recognise that a company's trade mark would not necessarily relate directly to the origin of that company or its products. It also noted that the website featured in the ad was moben.co.uk – which supported a British connection.