LEGO lost a trademark battle in Japan over the mark CATTYLEGO

LEGO has lost a trademark battle it lodged against PETSWEET Co., Ltd., a Taiwanese company, over its registration of the mark “CATTYLEGO” in Japan.
[Opposition case no. 2017-900077, Gazette issued date: Feb 23, 2018]

 

OPPOSED MARK “CATTYLEGO”

PETSWEEY Co., Ltd., a Taiwanese company, applied for trademark registration in Japan for the mark consisting of a word “CATTYLEGO” and rectangle device (see below in right) on June 15, 2016 by designating toys for pets in class 28. Apparently, PETSWEET Co., Ltd. promotes various categories of cat toys, e.g. Cat Tree, Cart Playground as you can review by accessing their website.

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) admitted registration of the mark on November 15, 2016 and published the gazette under trademark registration no. 5902786 on January 10, 2017.

 

LEGO Trademark

LEGO Juris A/S, the world’s largest Danish toy manufacturer, filed an opposition against the mark CATTYLEGO on the final day of a two-month duration for opposition.

LEGO argued that the mark CATTYLEGO shall be cancelled due to a conflict with the famous LEGO trademark (see above in left) based on Article 4(1)(viii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law.

 

 

BOARD DECISION

The Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and population of the LEGO trademark as a source indicator of opponent in relation to brick toys by taking account of consecutive promotion of LEGO bricks in Japan for more than five decades, annual sales amount over 8 billion yens (Approx. USD 74 million ), its remarkable share in the sector of kids toys, and almost half of preschools in Japan have adopted the bricks for educational purpose.

In the meantime, the Board negated similarity between the CATTYLEGO mark and the LEGO trademark, stating that it is unconvincing to consider “CATTY” descriptive from overall appearance of the opposed mark. If so, opposed mark is unlikely to giver rise to any meaning and pronunciation in association with LEGO bricks or opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded opposed mark shall not subject to Article 4(1)(xi) so long as both marks are dissimilar.

Board also found less likelihood of confusions due to a remote association between toys for pets and brick toys (for kids) in view of different manufacturers, consumers, usage, commercial channel for these goods as well as dissimilarity of the marks.

Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit registration of trademarks which contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof. A term of “Person” is construed to include a legal entity as well as individual. It is obvious that opposed mark contains “LEGO” which corresponds to an abbreviated name of opponent. However, it is noteworthy that the Board, in adopting the article, dismissed opponent’s allegation by stating that opponent failed to demonstrate the use of the LEGO trademark in a manner that relevant consumers would conceive it as an abbreviation of opponent’s name.

No Violation of the US President’s Personality Rights

The Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) admitted registration of a mark consisting of jigsaw puzzles design and “TA TRUMP” (see below), saying that it does not violate personality rights of Mr. Donald John Trump, the President of the United States.

 

MARK IN QUESTION

A Japanese individual filed a trademark application for the mark consisting of jigsaw puzzles design and a word of “TA TRUMP” (see below) on November 23, 2016 by designating “psychology education cards” in class 16.

JPO examiner refused the mark on the grounds that it comprises a famous abbreviation of Mr. Donald John Trump, the President of the United States and presumably the applicant would not obtain consent from him.

 

Article 4(1)(viii)

Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law prohibits registration of trademarks which contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof. Notwithstanding the provision, the article is not applicable where the applicant of disputed mark produces the written consent of the person.

The Supreme Court of Japan ruled the article has aimed to protect personality rights of a living individual. A diminutive of foreign celebrity falls under the category of “abbreviation” even if his/her full name is not so familiar among Japanese citizen.

 

To contest the refusal, the applicant filed an appeal on August 11, 2017.

 

Appeal Board

In the decision rendered on January 10, 2018, the Appeal Board overruled the refusal and admitted registration of the mark in question by stating that:

  1. “TRUMP” has been known as an English term meaning playing cards among the public in Japan.
  2. In the meantime, “TRUMP” admittedly corresponds to a surname of Mr. Donald John Trump and it becomes evident he is a well-known person as the 45th President of the United States to be called “President Trump”.
  3. Overall appearance of the applied mark easily reminds us of a kind of playing card back designs.
  4. If so, the term of “TRUMP” depicted in the mark shall not be considered to suggest President Trump at all.
  5. Based on the foregoing, accordingly it is groundless to refuse the mark based on Article 4(1)(viii).

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

 

JPO refused to register word mark “ROMEO GIGLI” due to lack of consent from Italian fashion designer

In a recent decision, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) refused to register trademark application no. 2015- 100245 for a red-colored word mark “ROMEO GIGLI” in gothic script (see below) designating goods of Class 24 and 25 on the grounds that applicant failed to obtain a consent from Italian fashion designer, Romeo Gigli, based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law.[Case no. 2017-3558]

Disputed mark was filed on October 16, 2015 in the name of ECCENTRIC SRL, an Italian legal entity, by designating following goods in Class 24 and 25.

Class 24:

“woven fabrics; elastic woven material; bed and table linen; towels of textile; bed blankets; table cloths of textile; bed covers; bed sheets; curtains of textile or plastic; table napkins of textile; quilts”

Class 25:

“clothing; T-shirts; shirts; jumpers; trousers; pants; jackets; skirts; jeans; neckties; overcoats; coats; belts; gloves; mufflers; sweat suits; underwear; swimsuits; headgear; hats; caps; footwear; special footwear for sports”

 

Article 4(1)(viii)

On December 9, 2016, JPO examiner refused the mark based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit registration of trademarks which contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof. Notwithstanding the provision, the article is not applicable where the applicant of disputed mark produces the written consent of the person.

The Supreme Court of Japan has ruled the article shall be interpreted to protect personal rights of a living individual. In line with the Supreme Court ruling, Trademark Examination Manuals (TEM) set forth that the article is applicable not only to natural persons (including foreigners) and corporations but also associations without capacity. Familiar name of foreigners falls under the category of “abbreviation” if its full name contains middle name(s) unknown to Japanese consumer.

Click here to access TEM on the JPO website.

Finding that disputed mark just consists of an individual name of famous fashion designer, Romeo Gigli, the examiner raised an objection based on Article 4(1)(viii) unless ECCENTRIC SRL obtains a consent from the designer.

 

APPEAL

The applicant filed a notice of appeal with the Appeal Board, a body within JPO responsible for hearing and deciding certain kinds of cases including appeals from decisions by JPO Examiners denying registration of marks, on March 9, 2017 and contended against the refusal decision by examiner.

During the appeal trial, ECCENTRIC SRL argued inadequacy of the decision by demonstrating following facts.

  • ECCENTRIC SRL is a legitimate successor of trademark rights owned by Romeo Gigli as a consequence of mandatory handover resulting from bankruptcy of company managed by Romeo Gigli irrespective of his intention. Under the circumstance, it is almost impossible to obtain a written consent from him.
  • In the meantime, ECCENTRIC SRL has already obtained trademark registrations for the word mark “ROMEO GIGLI” in several jurisdictions.
  • Besides, ECCENTRIC SRL is a current registrant of Japanese TM registration no. 2061302 for identical wordmark in Class 4,18,21 and 26.
  • There has been no single complaint from consumers, traders or Romeo Gigli in person.

ECCENTRIC SRL alleged that the above facts shall amount to having obtained an implicit consent from Romeo Gigli in fact. Thus, disputed mark shall be allowed for registration even without a written consent in the context of purpose of the article.

The Appeal Board dismissed the appeal, however, and sustained the examiner’s decision by saying that trademark registrations in foreign countries shall not be a decisive factor in determining registrability of disputed mark under Article 4(1)(viii) in Japan. Absence of complaint from Romeo Gigli shall not be construed that he has consented to register his name in the territory of Japan explicitly or implicitly.

Unless applicant produces evidence regarding a consent from Romeo Gigli otherwise, disputed mark shall be refused to register based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law.

According to the JPO database, ECCENTRIC SRL filed an appeal against the Board decision to the IP High Court in November 2017. The Court decision will be rendered within a couple of months.


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

 

ENRICO COVERI failed to remove “COVERI” from trademark registration

The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) held in an opposition filed by Enrico Coveri Società a Responsabilità Limitata (Opponent) that trademark registration no. 5874843 for a word mark “COVERI” (Opposed mark) shall remain as valid as ever and dismissed claims in the opposition entirely.
[Opposition case no. 2016-900368]


Opposed mark (see below) was applied for registration on November 27, 2015 by designating various kinds of goods in class 25 including apparels and shoes, and published for registration on September 20, 2016without any office action from the JPO examiner.


Opponent claimed that the opposed mark “COVERI” shall be cancelled on the basis of Article 4(1)(vii), (viii), (x), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing senior trademark registrations for word mark “ENRICO COVERI”, a name of the late Italian fashion designer, in class 18, 24 and 25.


In the opposition decision, the Board concluded that “ENRICO COVERI” and “COVERI” are both dissimilar in appearance, pronunciation and concept.

Besides, the Board did not admit a high degree of popularity and recognition to “ENRICO COVERI” among relevant public in Japan because of insufficient evidence to demonstrate amount of sales, number of stores and expenditure for promotion and advertisement (Opponent has just produced some photographs or articles appeared in fashion magazines).

Based on the fact finding, the Board concluded that opposed mark was not filed in a malicious intent to do harm to the designer’s fame, and “COVERI” shall not be deemed as an abbreviation of “ENRICO COVERI”. Therefore, there finds less likelihood of confusion between “COVERI” and “ENRICO COVERI” even if both marks are used on apparels or shoes.


It is highly advisable to an owner of high-end or luxurious brand, consisting of two or more alphabetical words, to have each word registered as well for the purpose of preventing free-riding and enjoying a broader scope of protection against use by others.

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

American heavy metal band, METALLICA failed in an opposition against trademark METALICA

In a recent Japan trademark opposition decision, the Opposition Board of JPO ruled that a word mark “METALICA” (Opposed mark) is unlikely to confuse with “METALLICA” well known for an American heavy metal band in connection with goods of class 9 and 14. [Opposition case no. 2016-900260]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark, solely consisting of a word “METALICA” written in a plain alphabetical letter, was filed on June 25, 2015 in the name of LG Electronics Incorporated, a Korean corporation, by designating various electronics, such as, smart phone, cell phones, personal digital appliance (PDA), audio stereo, music players of class 9 and watch, personal ornaments of class 14. JPO granted to register the mark on May 20, 2016 under TM registration no. 5851357.

 

Opposition

The Japan Trademark Law provides that anyone is entitled to file an opposition against new trademark registration within two months from the publication date of gazette under article of 43bis.

METALLICA filed an opposition against the mark “METALICA” by citing IR no. 858989 for a word mark of “METALLICA” covering goods of class 3, 6, 9, 14, 16, 25, and asserted to cancel Opposed mark based on article 4(1)(viii) and 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law.

 

Article 4(1)(viii)

Article 4(1)(viii) prohibits to register a mark containing the portrait of another person, or the name, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof (except those the registration of which has been approved by the person concerned). The article aims to protect personal right of living person or legal entity.

Opponent, METALLICA, a partnership corporation established by members of the band, alleged that Opposed mark “METALICA” can be conceived of the opponent or US famous heavy metal band due to identical appearance and pronunciation with “METALLICA”.

The Board dismissed the allegation of Article 4(1)(viii) by stating that “METALICA” does not contain “METALLICA” in a precise and strict sense.

 

Article 4(1)(xv)

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits to register a mark which is likely to cause confusion in connection with the goods or services pertaining to a business of another person.

Opponent alleged relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive goods with Opposed mark “METALICA” as goods from opponent in view of similarity of both marks and substantial reputation acquired among rock music fanatics.

The Board admits widespread reputation of “METALLICA” among traders and consumers relating to goods and service of rock music, such as music CD and music live performance. In the meantime, famousness of the mark “METALLICA” on any goods and service unrelated to music was denied.

In the assessment of similarity, the Board admitted both marks are deemed similar in appearance, sound, concept. However, the goods designated under Opposed mark are remotely associated with T-shirts, caps, posters, badges, music videos and goods or service related to American rock music of METALLICA’s interest.

Based on the forgoing, the Board concluded that “METALICA” is unlikely to confuse or misconceive with “METALLICA” in connection with goods of class 9 and 14.

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

Name of a deceased historical person as trademark

Trademark containing the name, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person in-life, or famous abbreviation thereof is prevented from registering based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Japanese Trademark Law.

 Article 4(1)(viii) is applicable only to a person in-life, however.

What happens to the name of a deceased historical person?

 JPO admitted to register the following surname of historical person as trademark filed during the past half decade by an entity apparently unrelated to the person or his descendant.

Reg No. 5501361 for word mark “CLEOPATRA” in class 31

Reg No. 5610909 for word mark “NAPOLEON” in class 14

Reg No. 5870913 for word mark “EDISON” in class 21

Reg No. 5744685 for word mark “MOZART” in class 11

Reg No. 5514116 for word mark “NEWTON” in class 9, 41

Reg No. 5744686 for word mark “PICASSO” in class 11

Reg No. 5537255 for word mark “KENNEDY” in class 25

 

Meanwhile, “ANNE FRANK”, “JOHN LENNON”, “JAMES DEAN”, “MARILYN MONROE”, “CHAPLIN”, and “MOTHER TERESA” has been registered as a trademark owned by specific organization

 

Trademark Examination Manual (TEM) 42.107.04 revised in 2009 refers to approach to application filed for registering a trademark created after the name of a historical person or name of a well-known or famous deceased person.

 1. In the process of examining an application filed for registering a trademark, examiners should pay special attention to the application for a trademark created after the name of a historical person since using or registering such application may cause damage to social and public interest, irrespective the unobjectionable composition of the trademark, or generally-accepted sense of morality, which may fall under Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Act. Specifically, they should analyze such application if it would fall under the provision, comprehensively taking the following backgrounds into consideration:

1) Popularity of the well-known or famous historical person;

2) Acceptance of the name of the historical person among the nation or region;

3) Availability of the name of the historical person;

4) Relationship between the availability of the name of the historical person and the designated goods or services;

5) Circumstance, purpose, or reason of the application; and

6) Relationship between the historical person and the applicant.

2. In the process of the examination said above, especially when examiners recognize the application as “an application for registering the trademark filed by the applicant who takes advantage of the measures for public interest using the name of a historical person, who hinders the execution of the measures, and who intends to monopolize the interest while he/she knows that the application would result in damaging public interest,” the application falls under Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Act based on the idea that the application may disrupt the order of fair competition and cause damage to social and public interest.

 In a lawsuit disputing invalidity of mark “CARNEGIE SPECIAL”, the court ruled that the registered trademark as a whole was invalidated due to violation of public policy because it was presumed that the plaintiff had illegally intended to use the achievement of Dale Carnegie Note (1888 – 1955), famous writer, for his own business. (Decision by the Tokyo High Court, August 29, 2002 [2001 (Gyo Ke) No. 545])

To sum up, since 2009, it becomes evident that where an applied mark corresponds to the name of a historical person, the mark shall not be registered if its registration is likely to cause damage to public policy on the ground of violation of Article 4(1)(vii) and TEM 42.107.04. Inter alia, where a specific organization manages IP right of historical person, JPO will refuse registration of the name of such person accordingly.