IP High Court reversed JPO decision pertinent to a likelihood of confusion between men’s fashion magazines and male cosmetics

In a judgement pronounced on November 14, 2017, the IP High Court of Japan ruled to reverse JPO decision which negated a likelihood of confusion between MEN’S CLUB brand men’s fashion magazine and the same brand male cosmetics.[Court case no. H29(Gyo-ke)10109]

MEN’S CLUB magazine

The lawsuit was filed by a publisher of the MEN’S CLUB magazine who unsuccessfully challenged to invalidate TM registration no. 5858891 for a word mark “MEN’S CLUB” in standard character covering goods of male cosmetics in class 3 (hereinafter referred to as “Disputed mark”).

MEN’S CLUB magazine has been continuously published past six decades since 1965 in Japan.

 

TM Registration 5858891 – MEN’S CLUB on male cosmetics

Disputed mark was applied for registration on January 7, 2016, registered on June 17, 2016 without receiving any office action from the Japan Patent Office (JPO) examiner.

On April 5, 2017, plaintiff demanded for a trial to invalidate disputed mark in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law by citing MEN’S CLUB brand men’s fashion magazines used by plaintiff.

The Trial Board of JPO decided that disputed mark shall neither fall under Article 4(1)(xv) nor 4(1)(xix), and dismissed the invalidation petition entirely [case no. 2016-890063].

In the lawsuit, plaintiff argued the Board misconstrued Article 4(1)(xv), thus erred in judgment to apply the article on the case.

Article 4(1)(xv)

Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law provides that a mark shall not be registered where it is likely to cause confusion with the goods or services pertaining to a business of another entity.

Theoretically, Article 4(1)(xv) is applicable to the case where a mark in question designates remotely associated or dissimilar goods or services with that of a well-known brand business.

IP High Court decision

The IP High Court ruled that the Board erred in applying Article 4(1)(xv) based on following reasons.

  • Both marks, consisting of MEN’S CLUB, are almost identical
  • MEN’S CLUB brand men’s fashion magazine has acquired a high degree of popularity and reputation among relevant consumers as a result of substantial use over decades, notwithstanding lack of creativity in the mark
  • Male cosmetics are considerably associated with men’s fashion magazines since they are often featured in men’s fashion magazines
  • Consumers of men’s fashion magazines are likely to consume male cosmetics

Based on the foregoing and the degree of ordinary care taken by relevant consumers, the court concluded that consumers of male cosmetics would conceive the MEN’S CLUB brand men’s fashion magazine and then associate the cosmetics with goods produced by plaintiff or a business entity who has systematical or economical connection with plaintiff in error.

Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM

 

 

Trademark battle: OLYMPIC vs Ocalympic

In a TM invalidation appeal filed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who disputed TM registration no. 5608031 for the mark “Ocalympic” covering services of organization of musical performances played by ocarinas and others in class 41 shall be invalid due to conflict with “OLYMPIC”, an international sports festival organized by IOC, the Appeal Board of JPO  decided in favor of IOC and declared invalidation of the “Ocalympic” mark based on Article 4(1)(vi) of the Trademark Law.
[Case no. 2016-890064,  Decisively  fixed date: September 4, 2017]


Article 4(1)(vi)

Trademark shall not be registered if the trademark is identical with, or similar to, a famous mark indicating the State, a local government, an agency thereof, a non-profit organization undertaking a business for public interest, or a non-profit enterprise undertaking a business for public interest.

Famous mark to represent public business by NPO

The Board admitted the OLYMPIC marks has acquired substantial degree of popularity and reputation worldwide as a source indicator of the Olympic Games organized by NPO for public interest at the time of application for invalidated mark based on the facts that IOC is an international NPO established on June 23, 1894, an organizer of the Olympic Games, has been using the marks to represent the Games which correspond to an undertaking for public interest.

Assessment of similarity between marks

Since literal configuration of the Invalidated mark, having an initial letter “O” and spellings of “LYMPIC(lympic)” in the latter part, is identical with a coined mark “OLYMPIC”, the mark gives rise to an impression closely associated with “OLYMPIC” from appearance.

A mere verbal difference on second sound “ca” shall not be material as a whole in view of common pronunciation in initial sound “O” and “LYMPIC” in the latter part. Besides, when pronouncing each mark at a breath, relevant audience shall find resemblance in tone and a sense of language. Thus, both marks are deemed similar in phonetical point of view.

Regarding conceptual point of view, even if the Invalidated mark is admittedly a coined term, it still gives rise to a meaning of the Olympic Games.

Therefore, considering every circumstance, both marks are deemed similar.


Provided that Invalidated mark combines “ocarinas” with “Olympic”, I feel above assessment inappropriate. Toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, it is anticipated that such sort of mark may appear. Be on high alert for famous mark “OLYMPIC”!

Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM

Premium Friday – Minister is eligible to own trademark registration

In an effort to curb excessive work hours and to boost weak consumer spending, the Japan government and business lobby groups launched the Premium Friday campaign on Feb. 24, 2017.
The government-backed “Premium Friday” campaign calls on workers to leave the office at around 3 p.m. on the last Friday of each month so that they can go out and have fun.
However, only a small number of companies have managed to establish the practice of departing early in fact, while operators of department stores and amusement facilities are running out of ideas to attract visitors on the designated Fridays.


By the way, who on earth takes it for granted that “Premium Friday” is a registered mark?

The Japan Patent Office on-line database revealed the following “Premium Friday” marks used on the campaign have been registered without a doubt.

TM Registration no. 5942825

TM Registration no. 5954624


You would feel like questioning “Who is a registrant?”, wouldn’t you?
When I found the name of the registrant, I was shocked!
Registrant of “Premium Friday” marks is Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, not an individual person assuming the position of Minister.
I didn’t know that Minister is eligible to own trademark registration in the name of ministerial capacity. Does such thing happen only in Japan?

Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM

JPO : KAPAPA is unlikely to cause confusion with Kappa

In a recent trademark opposition, Opposition Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided the mark “KAPAPA” is unlikely to cause confusion with “Kappa”, one of the world’s largest sport brands founded in 1960s, Italy even when used on sport wears.[Opposition case no. 2017-900115, decisively concluded on August 17, 2017]


Opponent, a Japanese business entity authorized to distribute “Kappa” goods in Japan, filed a trademark opposition against TM registration no. 5912402 for the “KAPAPA” logo mark (see below).

Opposed mark was applied for registration on April 20, 2016 by designating various goods in class 18 and 25, e.g. bags, clothing, sport wears, sport shoes, caps and socks.


Opponent asserted that the opposed mark violates Article 4(1)(xi) and 4(1)(xix) of the Trademark Law by citing senior registrations for the “Kappa” mark.


Based on substantive evidential materials to show the facts the “Kappa” is ranked as 6th sport brand in annual sale and has been promoted in Japan over three decades, the Opposition Board admitted that “Kappa” has acquired a certain degree of popularity and reputation among relevant consumers as a source indicator of workout clothes, gym clothes, athletic wear and soccer wear.

In the meantime, the Board denied similarity between “KAPAPA” and “Kappa” by taking into consideration a distinctive gap in sound and meaning of respective mark as a whole.

As a conclusion, the opposition is groundless since it shall be unlikely that relevant consumers with an ordinary care would confuse or associate “KAPAPA” wears with “Kappa” and any entity systematically or economically connected with opponent, the Board held.

 

MASAKI MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM