The day the Thalys disappeared!
SNCF, the French railway company, will replace the brand Thalys with Eurostar within the current year. That last one may attract more new and international clients as a brand. In 2022, Thalys and Eurostar together accounted for 14.8 million passengers (Thalys measures 6.5 meters), which is a substantial increase compared to the 4.3 million passengers in 2021 during Covid.
Thalys goes off the rails
The Thalys was introduced on the Paris-Amsterdam axis in 1996 and after almost three decades, this iconic brand will come to an end. By the end of 2030, Eurostar will be the only brand providing 30 million passengers. There is one consolation for loyal Thalys fans: thanks to a mountain of debt of around €1 billion, there will be only a few minor visual adjustments to the branding in a first phase. The colour difference and internal & external appearance of the current brands will remain the same.
The Thalys name will disappear, in other words, Eurostar will apply the absorption technique according to the 4 integration models in a takeover. With this, it chooses according to the expectation that Eurostar will gain more reputation and recognition among its international target audience. A name that is up to scratch, although there was no (legal) certainty of the name in the past.
High-speed train vs diamonds
After all, the launch of the brand Eurostar didn't go smoothly. Although this brand name was successfully registered in 1988, it became clear shortly after the registration that it wasn't unique. When the Eurostar Group wanted to take action against a trademark application for a logo 'EUROSTAR', difficulties surfaced. This trademark was applied by Eurostar Diamond Traders, the former largest diamond trader in Belgium. They had been using the name 'Eurostar' as a trade name since 1980, although they had not yet registered this name as a trademark. This previous use forced Eurostar to reach a co-existence agreement with Eurostar Diamond Traders.
For example, this co-existence agreement determined that Eurostar Diamond Traders must commit to only using the brand name 'EUROSTAR' in a way that clearly shows that it is about the diamond trader and not the high-speed train, e.g. by using the brand name in combination with the word 'Diamond' or by adding a figurative diamond in their logo (as they did for their trademark application). However, this agreement didn't specify anything about domain names.
EUROSTAR on the wrong track
Unfortunately, the peace between the two companies was only short-lived. 2005 was the year when the coveted .eu domain name extension was created. Eurostar Diamond Traders managed to register the domain name 'eurostar.eu' 34 seconds after registrations opened; Eurostar tried vainly to take the same domain name 6 minutes later.
Eurostar saw this as an unauthorised use of Eurostar Diamond Traders' trademark that would violate the co-existence agreement. Eurostar went to EURid, the authorised registry for .eu domain names and related disputes, to initiate the first ever ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) procedure regarding a .eu domain name. However, Eurostar was proved wrong, and also further claims before the French court in summary proceedings and in first instance were rejected.
Eurostar diamond loses his shine
Eurostar came off best in the appeal: it so happens that the Paris Court of Appeal decided that the domain name registration by Eurostar Diamond Traders should still be interpreted as a use of their trademark in conflict with their obligations under the co-existence agreement. Therefore, the Court ordered the transfer of the domain name and terminated the co-existence agreement to the detriment of Eurostar Diamond Traders.
This case shows once again why it is essential to research and register timely your brand name. If Eurostar Diamond Traders had registered their brand name from the beginning, they could potentially have turned out as the winners in this dispute. Both at the level of Trade and Company Name and Trademark and Domain Name.