Google’s Trademark Battle over Street View

The Opposition Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Google LLC and decided to cancel trademark registration no. 6086044 for word mark “STREET VIEW MODEL (SVM)” due to a likelihood of confusion with Google’s “STREET VIEW”.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900391, Gazette issued on September 25, 2020]

Opposed mark

A Japanese individual filed a trademark application for word mark “STREET VIEW MODEL (SVM)” written in Japanese Katakana character (see below) by designating the service of ‘providing online non-downloadable videos and photographs’ in class 41 with the JPO on December 27, 2017.

The opposed mark was registered and published for opposition on October 30, 2018.

Google “Street View”

On December 28, 2018, Google LLC filed an opposition against “STREET VIEW MODEL (SVM)” and argued that the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law based on its owned senior registration for the STREET VIEW mark (IR no. 12138361) in class 9 and 42 because both marks resemble and relevant consumers would confuse or associate the opposed mark, containing “STREET VIEW” famous for the service featured on Google map enabling to provide panoramic 360-degree views from the designated street, with the opponent when used on the designated service in question.

IR no. 12138361

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

Board Decision

The Board did not question the famousness of the STREET VIEW mark as a source indicator of Google’s service for providing digital images on a map at the time of both initial filing and registration of the opposed mark.

In the assessment of similarity between the marks, the Board found that the average consumers would likely pay considerable attention to the term “STREET VIEW” of the opposed mark because of its fame. If so, a high degree of similarity exists between the opposed mark and “STREET VIEW”.

It is true that the “STREET VIEW” mark is anything but a fancy or invented word since it consists of two common English words that the relevant consumers are familiar with, however, given the designated service in question and Google “STREET VIEW” are related to providing digital images via the internet, these are supposedly purchased or consumed by the same consumers. If so, the Board considers the opponent business, and the service in question are closely associated.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded that relevant traders and consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark when used in relation to the service (class 41) with Google or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent and thus decided cancellation in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv).

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