November 19

"Obelix in Denmark"


"Obelix in Denmark" or the condemnation of a themed café


The 1ster last October, the Danish High Court has ended a dispute that pitted a Copenhagen cafe against Albert René publishing. According to the judges, the "Obelix café" did indeed violate copyrights as well as trademarks belonging to the publisher of the comic strip. This condemnation may seem belated because the café has existed since the early 1990s. However, the judges did not rule that the publisher's action was time-barred, in particular the infringement of Uderzo's moral rights.


Obelix coffee or the blurred line between counterfeiting and admiration

The dispute was not only about the name of the café but also about the decoration of the café, which was strongly inspired by the world of comic books. The walls of the café were decorated with home-made drawings of Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix, etc. There were also numerous frames with drawings from Uderzo and Goscinny's comic strips. The owner even went so far as to use the typography developed by Albert Uderzo in "Asterix" for the sign of his café.


Front of the Obelix café (source: Yelp)

All these efforts show the great admiration the bar owner had for the Obelix character. But this argument was not taken into account by the Danish judges. Above all, they saw this thematic decoration as an infringement of Albert René's copyright and trademarks. The court went so far as to hold that the owner of the Obelix café acted in bad faith. According to the court, the owner "could not have been unaware that there was a right holder with regard to the name and illustrations of Obelix.


The "Obelix" marks beyond forfeiture and foreclosure

The Asterix comic strip has been published in Denmark since 1969. The first Danish trademarks protecting the character and the name Obelix date from 1981 and 1985. Albert René is also the owner of several European "Obelix" trademarks, which include services in class 43.

No non-use for the catering sector

The lawyer for Obelix's café tried to argue the non-use of these marks for food services. But the judges felt that the marks were well exploited...particularly through the existence of restaurants in the Parc Astérix. In addition, the publisher provided a licensing agreement with a Danish restaurant, under which the latter could use the names of characters from the Asterix universe. The restaurant had thus proposed a children's menu on the theme of the comic strip.

No passivity on the part of the publisher

The judges noted that the Obelix café was well known in the Copenhagen area. It had even been widely advertised nationally. But the lack of prior action by Albert René did not constitute passive behaviour, which could justify a foreclosure of the action. For the court, the active monitoring of the Obelix trademarks on the French market showed the publisher's determination to defend its rights.


Infringement of Uderzo's copyright and moral rights

Finally, the judges considered that the use of fictional characters from the Asterix universe constituted an infringement of the rights of Uderzo and Goscinny. They also found that the cartoonist's moral rights had been infringed. Indeed, some of the illustrations in the café placed the characters in compromising situations (drinking alcohol, sexual acts, etc.).

It would appear that the indecent nature of the infringement played an important role for the judges. They were more lenient towards Albert René's prolonged inaction. Indeed, the Court considered that the publisher would never have tolerated such use ofObelix...Asterix and all the other Gauls in the comic strip. So the café had to change its name at first, and has since closed its doors for good.


Before you give magic potion to your marks, remember to seek professional advice.


Asterix, Conflict, Counterfeit, Denmark, Copyright, Monopoly, Obelix

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