Is “VEGAS” an abbreviation for Las Vegas, or a source indicator?

In a trademark opposition disputing over abbreviation for ‘Las Vegas’, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided the term “VEGAS” shall be distinctive in connection with a service of providing amusement facilities (casino facilities, Pachinko parlors) of class 41.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900349, Gazette issue date: August 30, 2019]

VEGAS

Opposed mark is a word mark “VEGAS” in a plain gothic type.

The mark was filed in December 26, 2017 by a Japanese entertainment company, VEGASVEGAS Co., Ltd., headquartered in Tokyo, for various services in class 41 including providing casino (gambling) facilities, Pachinko parlors.

JPO, going through substantive examination, admitted registration (TM Registration no. 6080858) and published for opposition on October 9, 2018.

TRADEMARK OPPOSITION – Article 3(1)(iii)

On November 26, 2018, before the lapse of a two-months opposition period, DAIHACHI Co., Ltd. (d/b/a VEGAS GROUP), an amusement company, operating Pachinko & slot machine parlors in the name of VEGAS, filed an opposition, arguing that the word ‘VEGAS’ has been known among relevant consumers for an abbreviation for Las Vegas, the gamblers’ paradise, a trendy tourist destination, the entertainment capital of the world.

If so, it shall be forbidden to allow exclusive use of famous geographical indication by trademark right. Besides, consumers at the sight of opposed mark would establish a link between the geographical indication Las Vegas and “amusement facilities, casino (gambling) facilities and Pachinko parlors” and just conceive the facilities using opposed mark are connected with or equivalent to services available in Las Vegas Nevada (US).

Therefore, it is evident that opposed mark lacks distinctiveness in connection with the designated service of providing amusement facilities (casino facilities, Pachinko parlors) of class 41 and shall be revocable under Article 3(1)(iii) of the Trademark Law.

Article 3(1) of the Trademark Law is a provision to prohibit descriptive marks from registering.

Section (iii) of the article aims to remove any mark merely or directly suggesting quality of goods and services.

“Article 3(1) Any trademark to be used in connection with goods or services pertaining to the business of an applicant may be registered, unless the trademark:

(iii) consists solely of a mark indicating, in a common manner, in the case of goods, the place of origin, place of sale, quality, raw materials, efficacy, intended purpose, quantity, shape (including shape of packages), price, the method or time of production or use, or, in the case of services, the location of provision, quality, articles to be used in such provision, efficacy, intended purpose, quantity, modes, price or method or time of provision;”

OPPOSITION DECISION

JPO Opposition Board totally dismissed the opposition by stating that:

  1. From the produced evidences, it is unclear whether ‘VEGAS’ becomes ordinary indication for Las Vegas in Nevada, US.
  2. The Board could not find circumstances and business practices related to the service in dispute that ‘VEGAS’ has been used to indicate a specific quality of the service or an association with Las Vegas at all.
  3. A mere fact that ‘VEGAS’ reminds consumers of Las Vegas is insufficient to negate distinctiveness of opposed mark in connection with the service in dispute.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO decided opposed mark shall play a part of source indicator over the service in class 41 and irrevocable under Article 3(1)(iii) of the Trademark Law.


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

Adidas unsuccessful in an attempt to prevent trademark protection for two-stripes

The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) held in an opposition filed by Adidas AG that trademark registration no. 6016240 for two-stripes device (Opposed mark) shall remain as valid as ever and entirely dismissed Adidas’ claims based on its famous three stripes.[Opposition case no. 2018-900100, Gazette issued on August 30, 2019]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark (see below) was applied for registration on June 16, 2016 over shoes in class 25 by Marubeni Footwear, a Japanese business entity, and published for registration on February 27, 2018.

Opposition by Adidas

On April 24, 2018, Adidas AG filed an opposition and argued opposed mark is revocable under Article 4(1)(vii) and 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law in relation to its famous three stripes (see below).

Article 4(1)(vii)

Article 4(1)(vii) prohibits any mark likely to offend public order and morals from registering.

Trademark Examination Guidelines set forth criteria for the article and examples.
Among others, “Trademarks whose registration is contrary to the order predetermined under the Trademark Act and is utterly unacceptable for lack of social reasonableness in the background to the filing of an application for trademark registration.”

Based on a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity to Adidas three stripes, opponent asserted, applicant must have been aware of Adidas three stripes and filed opposed mark with a malicious intention to take advantage of the reputation and credit of opponent’s famous trademark and impair the goodwill embodied on its iconic three stripes.

Article 4(1)(xv)

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits to register a trademark which is likely to cause confusion with a business of other entity.

Adidas argued that, from appearance, opposed mark evidently gives rise to a same impression with Adidas three stripes since each stripe of the mark is depicted in the same direction, width and shape, besides a space between stripe also has the same width with the stripe.

Given opponent mark has been substantially used in various colors, length, and configurations, average consumers with an ordinary care of shoes who have been quite familiar with Adidas are likely to associate opposed mark with Adidas’ three-stripes. Inter alia, when each stripe of opposed mark is used in different color on side upper sole and a space between the stripes (upper sole fabric) has other color, and thus opposed mark looks like depicting three stripes on shoes, it is highly anticipated that relevant consumers would confuse its source with opponent.

Opposition decision

The Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and popularity to Adidas three stripes in relation to sport shoes, sportswear, sports gear at the time of initial filing and registration of opposed mark.

In the meantime, the Board found a low degree of originality of three stripes and similarity between the marks, from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view since opposed mark can be clearly perceived as ‘two-stripes’. Even if Adidas three stripes has acquired remarkable reputation, average consumers of sports shoes would not mistake two stripes for three stripes in purchasing shoes with opposed mark.
If so, the Board believes it is unlikely that relevant consumers confuse or associate opposed mark with Adidas.

The Board also negated opponent’s allegation of a possible ‘three-stripes’ appearance under specific color combination by stating that opposed mark is nothing but a two-stripes design mark. The space in between two stripes does not constitute opposed mark. If so, the allegation shall be irrelevant to the case.

Besides, from the produced evidences, the Board found it was not foreseen a circumstance to offend public order and morals from registering opposed mark and give harmful effect to the international faith.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded opposed mark shall not be revocable under Article 4(1)(vii) as well as (xv) and granted registration a status quo.


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