Opposition Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided to dismiss an opposition filed by Nintendo Co., Ltd. who claimed trademark registration no. 5845409 for the word mark “ピカキュウ” (to be pronounced as “PIKA-Q”) in a standard character designating goods of “lighting apparatus for automobiles; electric lamps” in class 11 and “retail or wholesale services dealing with the goods” in class 35 should be cancelled due to a likelihood of confusion with senior trademark registrations (Citation 1 and 2) pertinent to a well-known iconic mascot name “PIKACHU”, a fictitious monster appeared in Pokémon of opponent’s commercial interest [Case No. Opposition 2016-900226].
JPO admitted “PIKACHU” has attained a certain level of recognition amongst consumers as Pokémon characters name in association with opponent’s game and toy businesses, however, concluded that opposed mark is distinguishable from and distinctively dissimilar to the citations on the following grounds.
– In appearance, the word “ピカキュウ” of opposed mark written in Katakana characters looks similar to “ピカチュウ” in the citations since visual difference in a middle letter of “キ” and “チ” is trivial in light of resembled configuration of respective letter consisting of two horizontal lines and a vertical line.
– But, “PIKA-Q” and “PIKACHU” are phonetically distinguishable as a whole since both terms are different in overall nuance and tone by taking into consideration of a non-negligible effect caused by difference in the third sound of “kyu” and “chu”, and a few phonetic composition of four sounds in total.
– Both marks are deemed incomparably dissimilar in concept on the condition that opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning, but the citations are perceived as PIKACHU in Pokémon.
Besides, the Board held that relevant consumers are not only unlikely to associate or misconceive opposed mark used on the goods/services supra with the citations but also connect or confuse a source of the goods/services with opponent or related entities with commercial or organizational interest should it remain unclear whether opponent does or will expand business in association with the goods/services of opposed mark. Finding that any goods licensed by opponent is remotely associated with the opposed goods/services and the citations representing Pokémon characters do not correspond to a so-called “house mark” in opponent business, JPO concluded as mentioned above.
“PIKA-Q” appears a trademark parody originated from well-known iconic mascot name, “PIKACHU”. It is presumed that actual use on LED lamp for automobiles implying a meaning of quality of the lamp (PIKA is an imitative word to describe sudden brightness of lamp in Japanese) may affect to the Board decision.
MASAKI MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law (Japan) – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM