"Official" does not necessarily mean "officially from the government" – GEERS Hörakustik has success with GvW Graf von Westphalen

GEERS Hörakustik GmbH & Co. KG (in the meantime, named SONOVA Retail Deutschland GmbH) has successfully defended against a cease and desist claim asserted by the consumer protection organization Verbraucherzentrale Schleswig-Holstein e.V. under the German Act against Unfair Competition [Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb, "UWG"]. The District Court [Landgericht] Kiel accepted the argument of the hearing aid manufacturer and classified the mailing as permissible under competition law in a judgment of 2 March 2018 (16 HKO 33/17).

The consumer protection organization had issued a warning to GEERS because the company was using the phrase "Official Notification Documents" in its advertising mailings. As the District Court Kiel has determined, the warning was not justified. The mailing was stated to be neither misleading, nor did it disguise its nature as advertising.

The commercial nature of the mailing was held to be clear for an average reader and readily apparent in this specific case. GEERS was clearly designated as the sending party in the envelope window, the judges found. Language such as "official" ("offiziell") on the envelope was stated not to create the impression with an average consumer that this was a letter from a governmental office uses the word "amtlich" as another word for "official" in German.  The consumer organization has not filed an appeal against this judgment.

GvW represented GEERS through the Düsseldorf partners Dr. Joachim Mulch and Dr. Christian Triebe (Hamburg, both IP). Dr. Mulch has acted on behalf of the company for many years, including in disputes under competition law, and has already obtained some fundamental judgments for the hearing aid manufacturer (more).