"Der Wendler", the right to a name and trademark law

The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court has ruled that the pop singer performing under the stage name Michael Wendler (civil name: Michael Norberg) may no longer use the name "Der Wendler" or "Wendler" without a clarifying addition. The lawsuit against the singer ("Sie liebt den DJ") was brought by Frank Wendler from Velbert, who is also active in the pop music business under his civil name and registered the word mark "Der Wendler" for himself at the German Patent and Trademark Office in August 2008.

The competent senate, chaired by Prof. Wilhelm Berneke, emphasised that this was a case of co-existence of persons with the same name. It was true that the plaintiff had borne the corresponding name from birth. However, the defendant's stage name had been sufficiently well-known in the German pop scene at least since 2007, so that he had also acquired a right to this name designation. This right was equivalent to the right to a civil name. Irrespective of who had first borne the name, the bearers of the name were obliged to show mutual consideration in this situation. Therefore, none of them may use the name "Der Wendler" without clarifying which Wendler it is. Rather, as a rule, the first name had to be added. The court therefore ordered Michael Wendler to refrain from using the name without sufficient clarification. In return, it ordered Frank Wendler to cancel the word mark registered in his name in response to the corresponding counterclaim.

The judgement is not yet final. The parties may appeal against the non-admission of the appeal to the Federal Supreme Court within one month.

Judgment of the 20th Civil Senate of the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court of 21 May 2013, Ref: I-20 U 67/12


Source: Press release of the OLG Düsseldorf


Goldberg Attorneys at Law 2013

Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law

E-mail: info@goldberg.de