The Kalevala Dispute – who has the right to use the name of the Finnish national epic?

Trademark dispute over the word 'Kalevala'

Kalevala Koru, a traditional Finnish company creating jewelry has gotten into a dispute regarding the use of Finnish national epic Kalevala’s name. Helsinki based/Finnish cultural tourism project named “Kalevala kartalle” wishes to use the name Kalevala but Kalevala Koru claims the word ‘Kalevala’ should not be used in the project’s logo. What is this dispute about?

As background the Kalevala, is a compilation of epic poetry put together by writer Elias Lönnrot and is considered the national epic of Finland. It has played a significant role in developing the Finnish national identity and has been dubbed as one of the most remarkable pieces of Finnish literature. Thus, the Kalevala forms a major part of Finnish culture and continues to affect the daily life of Finns in various forms, from arts to business.

The Kalevala kartalle project’s logo was registered by the Finnish Patent and Registration Office (PRH) in May 2020. The logo contains, in addition to a figurative element, the words ‘Kalevala kartalle’. Kalevala Koru now claims that there is a risk of confusion with the project’s logo and Kalevala Koru’s brand. According to the Finnish Trademarks Act, a trademark will not be registered, or if it has already been registered, it shall be invalidated, if it causes a risk that the public may confuse it with an earlier trademark due to it being the same or similar to the earlier trademark. There is, however, an exception: if the later trademark has been established and the towner of the earlier trademark has not reacted to the later trademark within 5 years, then both marks may remain in force and coexist.

In Finland after a trademark has been registered and published, any third party can submit an opposition to the PRH within two months of publication. The possibility of opposition is thus a regular part of the trademark registration process.

The crucial factor for the protection of a trademark is the category for which the protection is sought at the registration stage since the trademark only provides protection in the categories in which it is registered. For example, Kalevala Koru has trademarks in class 35 (services) for which the Kalevala kartalle project has also applied for protection for its logo. In this case it is therefore important to assess whether these registered services are in fact the same or similar, as the class 35 includes services of various kinds.

As the Kalevala is a part of the Finnish cultural heritage, the question is whether anyone should have an exclusive right to use the word for profit or the right to prohibit anyone else from registering related trademarks. In this case, however, the dispute is over the use of the word ‘Kalevala’ in a figurative mark with words or a logo, not obtaining exclusive right to the word itself. Because Kalevala Koru has registered its trademarks first and gained protection for a figurative mark with the word ‘Kalevala’, it is in the company’s interests to protect its intellectual property rights and the brand it has built.

In the case at hand, the actual likelihood of confusion must be evaluated carefully. This involves the assessment of the classification as well as similarity and risk of confusion between the marks. In other words, this means, assessing whether consumers and stakeholders could confuse the commercial origin of the marks.

The process is currently in its preliminary stages and it may take a while as the opposition of the trademark is now being processed by the PRH. After the PRH has given its decision, the losing party may file an appeal in the Finnish Market Court.


Text and additional information:
Juuso Turtiainen, Associate, +358 40 764 8910, juuso.turtiainen@lexia.fi
Anni Kaarento, Legal Trainee, anni.kaarento@lexia.fi