Who associates “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-pen” with Apple Inc.?

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Apple Incorporated, a US corporation, against TM Registration no. 6031236 for word mark “Pen Pineapple Apple Pen” written in alphabets and Katakana characters, and allowed the mark to remain valid. [case no. 2018-900165]

 

Opposed mark : Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen

Avex Inc., a Japanese company, filed the mark to the JPO on February 24, 2017 over various kinds of goods/services in class 3,9,14,16,18,20,21,24,25,28,30,32,41,43 (14 classes in total). The JPO admitted registration on March 30, 2018.

 

Opposition by Apple Inc.

Apple Inc., an US multinational IT company, filed an opposition based on Article 4(1)(xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law by asserting opposed mark is deemed similar to opponent famous trademark “Apple”, “Apple Pay” and “Apple Pencil”, likely to cause confusion with opponent’s business when used on designated goods and services. Besides, opposed mark was seemingly adopted with an intention to freeride good-will bestowed on opponent famous trademarks.

Article 4(1)(xi) prohibits from registering a junior mark identical or similar to senior registered mark on identical or similar goods/service.
Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits any junior mark likely to cause confusion with others.
Article 4(1)(xix)
  prohibits a junior mark identical or similar to others’ famous mark with a malicious intention.
The provisions are available as cause of claims underlying  an opposition when registered in error.

 

JPO decision

The Opposition Board of JPO held opposed mark shall NOT be revocable in accordance with the articles by stating that:

“Opposed mark, solely consisting of literal elements with same size and same font, gives rise to a pronunciation of ‘pen pineapple apple pen’ as a whole. Regardless of slight verbosity, relevant consumers will surely connect the mark with viral hit song “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen or PPAP” by PIKOTARO, internet sensation from Japan, which has become known among the general public remarkably. If so, opposed mark merely gives rise to a meaning of PIKOTARO’s song.  Therefore, opposed mark shall be deemed dissimilar to opponent trademarks from visual, phonetic and conceptual points of view.

The Board admits a high degree of reputation or popularity of “APPLE” as a source indicator of opponent’s business in connection with PC, its accessories, software and smartphones, however, provided that both marks are distinctively dissimilar and ‘APPLE’ is a dictionary word commonly known among relevant public to mean the round, red or yellow, edible fruit of a small tree, the Board considers it is unlikely that relevant consumers and traders would confuse or associate opposed mark with opponent’s mark “APPLE”.

Besides, opponent alleged that PIKOTARO might compose the song inspired by “APPLE PENCIL” and ludicrously promoted with an intention of free-riding opponent’s goodwill. However, the Board was unable to find out any fact to assume malicious intention of the free-riding by applicant from the totality of the circumstances.”


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

IP High Court ruling: “BULK AAA” is confusingly similar to “BULK HOMME”

On March 7, 2019, the Japan IP High Court revoked a decision by the Japan Patent Office (JPO) to invalidation trial over a dispute of similarity between trademark “BULK AAA” and “BULK HOMME”, ruled “BULLK AAA” shall be retroactively invalid. [Judicial case no. Heise30(Gyo-ke)10141]

 

BULK HOMME

The case was brought into the IP High Court after the JPO decided to dismiss an invalidation trail (case no. 2017-890079) claimed by BULK HOMME Co., Ltd. (Plaintiff), an owner of senior trademark registration no. 5738351 for the mark combined “BULK HOMME” with other literal elements (see below) over goods of cosmetics and skin care products for men in class 3.

 

INVALIDATION TRIAL AGAINST “BULK AAA”

In the invalidation trial, plaintiff asserted trademark registration no. 5931607 for word mark “BULK AAA” in standard character shall be invalid in violation of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Trademark Law since the mark is confusingly similar to “BULK HOMME” and designates cosmetics (class 3) which is undoubtedly identical with or similar to the goods designated under its own senior registration.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to prohibit from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

Inter alia, plaintiff strongly argued the term “AAA” in disputed mark lacks distinctiveness as a source indicator in relation to cosmetics since “AAA” is a term commonly known to represent the highest possible rating assigned to the bonds of an issuer by credit rating agencies. Given the circumstance, relevant consumes of cosmetics are likely to consider the term in disputed mark a qualitative indication of the goods even if the term has not been used as such indication in connection with cosmetics in fact.

However, the Trial Board of JPO set aside the allegation by stating that disputed mark “BULK AAA” shall be assessed in its entirety. It is groundless to compare a word portion “BULK” of disputed mark with “BULK HOMME” given the Board could not identify any facts to assume relevant consumers of cosmetics conceive the term “AAA” of disputed mark as a qualitative indication. Both marks are sufficiently distinguishable from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view and dissimilar as a whole.

To contend against the decision, plaintiff filed an appeal to the IP High Court.

 

IP HIGH COURT DECISION

The IP High Court, to the contrary, sided with plaintiff and completely negated fact-findings made by the Trial Board of JPO. The Court held the term “AAA” is recognized as a qualitative indication even when used on cosmetics and thus the word portion of “BULK” is likely to play a dominant role of source indicator. If so, it is never inappropriate to pick up the word “BULK” from disputed mark and compare it with other mark in the assessment of mark similarity.

Besides, “HOMME” is a French term meaning “for men”. From the produced evidences, it seems apparent the term has been used in relation to men’s cosmetics, and consumers are accustomed to it and recognize the meaning. Given the term is depicted in a thinner font than “BULK” in the citation, “BULK” gives dominant impression as a source indicator in the mind of consumers. Accordingly, it is reasonable to pick up the word “BULK” from the citation and compare it with other mark in the assessment of mark similarity.

The Court found that the Trial Board materially erred in the fact-finding and assessing similarity of mark. As long as dominant portion “BULK” of both marks and designated goods are identical, disputed mark shall be invalid based on Article 4(1)(xi).


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

KANGOL: Assessing the Similarity Between Hairbands and Head wear

In a trademark opposition trial to seek cancellation of TM registration no. 6028674, the Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed the opposition claimed by Kangol Limited, an English clothing company famous for its head wear, because of dissimilarity between hairbands and head wear.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900149, Gazette issue date: December 28, 2018]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark, consisting of the word “KANGOL” and a kangaroo device (see below), was filed in the name of Crown Creative Co., Ltd., a Japanese business entity on June 23, 2017, and admitted registration on March 16, 2018 over the goods of hairbands and others in class 25.

It is doubtless opposed mark exactly looks the same with the KANGOL trademark owned by Kangol Limited.

 

Opposition by Kangol

On June 11, 2018, Kangol Limited filed an opposition based on its-own senior TM registration no. 5036704 for the Kangol mark (see below) over the goods of head wear, helmets, night caps and hoods in class 25.

 

In the opposition brief, Kangol asserted opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law.
Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

Since the marks of the respective parties are identical, Kangol focused on arguing the designated goods, inter alia hairbands, of opposed mark is similar to hear wear.

 

Similarity of goods

Trademark Examination Guidelines (TEG) [Part III Chapter 10: Article 4(1)(xi)] set forth criteria to determine similarity of goods.
In principle, similarity of goods is evaluated whether or not the relevant goods are likely to cause confusion as if they are goods manufactured and sold by the same business entity, when an identical or similar trademark is used for the designated goods of the trademark as applied and the cited trademark due to circumstances such that normally the goods are manufactured and sold by the same business entity.
To assess the similarity of goods, the following criteria are comprehensively taken into consideration.

(i) Whether both goods are produced by the same suppliers.
(ii) Whether both goods are distributed through the same sales channel.
(iii) Whether both goods are made from the same materials and achieve the same quality.
(iv) Whether both goods are for the same usage.
(v) Whether both goods are purchased by the same consumers.
(vi) Whether respective goods constitutes finished goods or a component of other goods.

 

Board decision

In the assessment of similarity between hairbands and head wear, the Board totally denied, based on the above criteria, Kangol’s allegations by stating that:

It is true that both goods are used for many purposes and can be made from various kinds of materials. Hairbands are used for cold protection or decoration just like with head wear. Some of hairbands and head wear use cloth or rubber as a material. However, suppliers, sales channel, consumers, usage and materials of both goods are substantially different in general. If so, relevant consumers and traders are unlikely to conceive both goods with the Kangol mark would come from the same source.

Accordingly, JPO decided opposed mark shall not be subject to Article 4(1)(xi) and valid as a status quo.


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

Serapian Loses Trademark Opposition against S device mark

The Italian-based fashion house Stefano Serapian S.r.l., known for its briefcases, handbags and purses opposed the registration in Japan of the trademark S logo owned by the Japanese company, Kabushiki Kaisha Overseas.

Opposed mark

Overseas filed an application to register S logo (see below) designating, among others, bags, purses, pouches and leather goods in class 18 on April 27, 2017. Going through substantive examination at the Japan Patent Office (JPO), it was registered on October 20 of that year (TM Reg no. 5990450).

Serapian Opposition

A trademark opposition proceeding filed on January 15, 2018, Serapian contended that opposed mark is confusingly similar to its registered famous “S” device mark (see below) by citing its owned IR no. 1117130 and thus shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

 

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

Article 4(1)(xv) provides that a mark shall not be registered where it is likely to cause confusion with other business entity’s well-known goods or services, to the benefit of brand owner and consumers.

Theoretically, Article 4(1)(xv) is applicable to the case where a mark in question is deemed dissimilar to well-known brand, but still likely to cause confusion because of a high degree of popularity and reputation of the brand.

 

The Ruling

The Opposition Board of JPO negated a certain degree of popularity and reputation of Serapian’s “S” device mark, stating that produced materials are insufficient and non-objective to demonstrate famousness of the cited mark.

Besides, the Board found that both marks are sufficiently distinguishable from appearance in view of overall configuration. From phonetic and conceptual points of view, it is apparent that respective mark would not be perceived as an alphabetical letter ‘S’, but a geometric figure device without any specific concept and pronunciation. If so, both marks would not give rise to similar appearance, sound and meaning at all.

Even if taking account of originality of “S” device mark, as long as it remains unclear whether Serapian “S” device mark has become popular among relevant consumers in Japan, the Board had no reason to admit a likelihood of confusion.

As a conclusion, the Board decided opposed mark is not subject to Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Trademark Law and dismissed the opposition accordingly.

[Opposition case no. 2018-900017, Gazette issue date December 28, 2018]


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

Lee unsuccessful in removing Leeao from trademark registration

The Japan Patent Office dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by the second largest manufacturer of jeans in the United States, The H.D. Lee Company, Inc. (LEE) against trademark registration no. 5990967 for the Leeao logo mark in class 25 by finding less likelihood of confusion with “Lee” because of remarkable dissimilarity between the marks.
[Opposition case no. 2017-900381]

 

Leeao

Opposed mark “Leeao” (see below) was filed by a Japanese business entity on April 28, 2017 by designating clothing and clothes for sports in class 25.

Going through substantive examination, the JPO admitted registration on September 29, 2017 and published for registration on November 21, 2017.

LEE’s Opposition

To oppose against registration, LEE filed an opposition on December 20, 2017.
In the opposition brief, LEE asserted the opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law given a high reputation and popularity of opponent mark “Lee” in the business field of jeans having longer history than LEVIS and similarity of opposed mark with its owned senior trademark registration no. 1059991 for the “Lee” logo mark (see below) over clothing in class 25 effective since 1974.

LEE argued opposed mark gives rise to a pronunciation of ‘liː’ from the first three letters, allegedly a prominent portion of opposed mark, since remaining elements are rarely perceived as letters of “ao” from its appearance.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

Where opposed mark is considered similar to opponent mark and designated goods of opposed mark is identical with or similar to that of opponent mark, opposed mark shall be retroactively cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xi). In this regard, since LEE’s senior registration covers clothing in class 25, similarity of goods is indisputable in the case.

 

Board Decision

The Opposition Board, based on the fact-finding that Lee jeans has been distributed in Japan for five decades and its frequent appearance in media, admitted a high degree of popularity and reputation of “LEE” logo as a source indicator of opponent jeans among general consumers.

In the meantime, the Board completely denied similarity between the marks on the grounds that:

  1. Opposed mark, from appearance, shall not be seen as a combination of “lee” and “ao” unless “ao” does clearly give rise to a descriptive meaning. If so, opposed mark shall constitute one word as a whole and be deemed sufficiently distinctive in concept as well.
  2. In the meantime, relevant consumers of goods in question shall conceive opponent mark as a source indicator of famous “Lee” jeans.
  3. If so, both marks are completely distinguishable from three aspects of appearance, sound, and concept.

Accordingly, JPO sided with opposed mark and decided it shall not be cancelled based on Article 4(1)(xi) in relation to opponent mark.


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

Is GRAND HOME dissimilar or similar to GRAN HOME?

In a recent appeal trial over trademark dispute, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) overturned the Examiner’s determination and held that a word mark “GRAND HOME” is dissimilar to, and unlikely to cause confusion with a senior trademark registration for the “GRAN HOME” mark in connection with construction, reform or repair service for residential homes and buildings.

[Appeal case no. 2017-13251, Gazette issue date: November 30, 2018]

GRAND HOME

Kabushiki Kaisha GRAND HOME, a Japanese business entity filed a trademark application for a word mark “GRAND HOME” in standard character covering services of reform, repair, maintenance, cleaning and construction for residential homes and buildings in class 37 on May 17, 2016 [TM application no. 2016-53226].

Going through substantive examination by the JPO examiner, applied mark was completely refused registration based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Trademark Law due to a conflict with senior trademark registration no. 5534717 for word mark “GRAN HOME” written in Japanese character(katakana) for the same services in class 37.

There are basic rules that the examiner is checking when evaluating the similarity between the marks:

  • visual similarity
  • aural similarity
  • conceptual similarity

and taking into account all these three aspects examiner makes a decision if a mark is similar (at least to some extent) with the earlier mark and if there is a likelihood of confusion for the consumers.

Applicant filed an appeal against the refusal on September 6, 2017 and argued dissimilarity of the marks.

Appeal Board decision

The Board reversed the examiner’s refusal and admitted applied mark to registration by stating that:

  1. From appearance, both marks are distinguishable because of a difference in literal elements. Applied mark consists of alphabetical letters. Meanwhile, the earlier mark consists of Japanese character.
  2. Having compared the sound of applied mark “ɡrænd hoʊm” and earlier mark “ɡræn hoʊm”, there evidently exists a difference in the middle sound. The difference shall not be negligible from overall sound composition as long as the sound “D” in the middle of applied mark is pronounced in a clear and intelligible manner. If so, both marks are aurally distinctive.
  3. Applied mark gives rise to a meaning of ‘large house’. In the meantime, the earlier mark “GRAN HOME” does not give rise to any specific meaning. Hence, both marks are dissimilar from conceptual point of view.
  4. Based on the foregoing, it is unlikely that relevant consumers confuse or misconceive a source of “GRAND HOME” with the earlier mark “GRAN HOME”.

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

JPO decision over POWER TECH trademark

In an administrative appeal disputing trademark similarity between TM registration no. 4015750 for word mark “POWERTECH” and a junior application no. 2016-137853 for the “AC POWERTECH” device mark represented as below, the Appeal Board of the Japan Patent Office decided that both marks are deemed dissimilar and reversed examiner’s rejection.
[Appeal case no. 2018-6124, Gazette issued date: October 26, 2018]

 

TM Registration no. 4015750

The cited mark, consisting of a word “POWERTECH” colored in red (see below), was registered on June 20, 1997 by designating various vehicles in class 12.

Junior Application no. 2016-137853

Applied junior mark consists of the following “AC POWERTECH” device mark (see below).

It was applied for registration on December 7, 2016 by designating vehicles in class 12.

The JPO examiner refused the applied mark due to a conflict with senior TM registration no. 4015750 based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

 

Subsequently, the applicant filed an appeal against the rejection and disputed dissimilarity of both marks.

 

Board decision

In the decision, the Appeal Board held that:

Applied mark is a composite mark mainly consisting of two words of “AC” and “POWERTECH” written in two lines and a black hexagon.

Even if the term “AC” is likely to be used as an indication of type and mode of vehicles in commerce, from appearance of applied mark as a whole, the Board opines that relevant consumers would not conceive the term as indication of type or model. If so, it is questionable whether consumers ignore “AC” in the applied mark and pay considerable attention to the term “POWERTECH”. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that applied mark shall give rise to a pronunciation nothing but “AC POWERTECH” and no specific meaning.

Based on the foregoing, in the assessment of trademark similarity, the Board decided that:

Obviously, both marks are distinguishable in appearance. Given applied mark does give rise to a pronunciation of “AC POWERTECH” and no meaning, the Board finds no ground to affirm examiner’s rejection from visual, phonetic, and conceptual point of view.


Astonishingly, JPO viewed the applied mark “AC POWERTECH” in its entirety irrespective of significant difference in font size between “AC” and “POWERTECH”.

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

“Teddy Bear” versus “Rose Teddy Bear”

The Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) ruled that senior trademark registrations for the mark “Teddy Bear” in standard character over goods of trees, flowers, dried flowers, plants, seedlings, saplings in class 21 is unlikely to cause confusion with a junior mark “Rose Teddy Bear” in plain letters even if the mark is used on rose and rose bushes in class 21. [Appeal case no. 2017-18006, Gazette issue date: October 26, 2018]

Senior registrations for the “Teddy Bear” mark

“TEDDY BEAR”, a children’s toy, made from soft or furry material, which looks like a friendly bear, has its origin after Teddy, nickname for Theodore Roosevelt who was well known as a hunter of bears.

In Japan, name of the toy bear has been registered in the name of Nisshin OilliO Group. Ltd. on various goods in class 29, 30, 31 and 32 since 1986.

Junior application for “Rose Teddy Bear”

Junior mark for “Rose Teddy Bear” was applied for registration by a French company on August 10, 2016 over goods of rose, rose trees and other items relating to rose in class 31.

JPO examiner rejected junior mark due to a conflict with the “Teddy Bear” mark based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Trademark Law on September 5. 2017.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

To seek for registration, applicant filed an appeal against the refusal on December 5, 2017.

Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board set aside a refusal on the grounds that:

(1) From appearance and pronunciation, the term of “Rose Teddy Bear” shall be recognized as one mark in its entirety.
(2) Relevant consumers and traders are likely to conceive the term as a coined word since it does not give rise to any specific meaning as a whole.
(3) Therefore, the refusal based on the assumption that literal portions of “Teddy Bear” in junior mark plays a dominant role made a factual mistake and shall be cancelled consequently.

It seems that the Board decision is not consistent with the Trademark Examination Guidelines (TEG) criteria.

[Chapter III, Part 10 of TEG]
A composite trademark having characters representing an adjective (characters indicating the quality, raw materials, etc. of goods or characters indicating the quality of services, the location of its provision, quality, etc.) is judged as similar to a trademark without the adjective as a general rule.

In this respect, as long as the junior mark designates rose in class 21 and the term “Rose” in the mark further impresses the concept of rose in mind of consumers, the portion of “Rose” should be considered descriptive in relation to designated goods. Otherwise, any combined mark composed of registered mark and a generic term pertinent to the designated goods is deemed dissimilar to the registered mark.


I suppose the Board signaled a narrower scope of right where trademark has evidently its origin from other entity or meaning unrelated to senior registrant.

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

Trademark dispute for XXXX

In a recent trademark appeal trial to seek dismissal of examiner’s refusal, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) set aside the refusal and allowed registration of TM Application no. 2017-21396 for the XXXX mark because of dissimilarity to a senior registration for “XXXX” mark.
[Appeal case no. 2018-5881, Gazette issue date: October 26, 2018]

 

Applied mark

The mark in dispute (see below left) was applied for registration in the name of Mitsukoshi Isetan, Japan’s largest department store group, on February 22, 2017 by designating goods of clothing; belts in class 25 and retail or wholesale services for clothing, bags and pouches, handkerchief and hair ornaments in class 35.

 

Cited TM registration for “XXXX”

The JPO examiner refused the applied mark due to a conflict with senior TM registration no. 4147840 for the mark “XXXX” (see above right) based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

Cited mark has been registered since 1998 over goods of clothing, garters, sock suspenders, suspenders [braces], waistbands, belts for clothing, footwear, clothes for sports, special footwear for sports in class 25.

Applicant filed an appeal against the decision on April 27, 2018 and disputed dissimilarity of the marks.

 

Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board sided with the applicant and negated similarity of both marks by stating that:

Applied mark shall be seen to represent a certain geometric figure. It appears that cited mark represents four alphabetical letters of “X” in line. It means there finds distinguishable gap between geometric figure and alphabetical letters from appearance.
Applied mark does not give rise to any specific pronunciation. In the meantime, cited mark shall have pronunciations of “eks eks eks eks” and “four eks”. Likewise, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable in pronunciation.
Besides, as long as both marks do not give rise to any specific meaning, it is not feasible to compare them in concept.
In view of above aspects, it unlikely happens confusion between the marks and thus deemed dissimilar.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided applied mark is not subject to Article 4(1)(xi), and admitted registration.


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

IP High Court: “VANSNEAKER” is confusingly similar to famous “VANS” sneakers

The IP High Court ruled on August 29, 2018 to uphold the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decision to cancel TM Reg. No. 5916735 for the mark “VANSNEAKER” over shoes in class 25 due to a conflict with TM Reg. No. 5245474 for famous mark “VANS”.
[Case no. Heisei30(Gyo-ke)10026]

VANSNEAKER

Disputed mark “VANSNEAKER” in the standard character format was filed on July 25, 2016 and registered next January by designating shoes in class 25 in the name of VAN Jacket Inc., a Japanese business entity, who succeeded to apparel business of “VAN” brand all the rage in the 60’S.

Opposition by VANS Incorporated

VANS Incorporated, a US business entity, established in California 1966,  famous for “VANS” sneakers, filed an opposition  by citing its own senior registered mark “VANS” in standard character format over shoes in class 25. The JPO decided to cancel disputed mark in breach of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Trademark Law on the ground that it is confusingly similar to famous “VANS” mark from a conceptual point of view. [Opposition case no. 2017-900135]

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark which is deemed identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

Appeal to the IP High Court

To contend, VAN Jacket appealed to the IP High Court and demanded cancellation of the decision.

VAN Jacket alleged in the court that JPO decision was based on an erroneous assumption of fact because it considered the portion of “VANS” plays a dominant role in source indicator. Given disputed mark “VANSNEAKER” consists of one word in its entirety, it is unlikely that consumers perceive the last letter “S” of “VANS” functions to represent an initial letter of “SNEAKER” as well.

Court decision

The IP High Court, however, dismissed the arguments by VAN Jacket, stating that:

  1. Cited mark ”VANS” has become famous among Japanese general consumers in connection with sneakers and shoes both at the time of filing application and registration of disputer mark.
  2. “NEAKER” does not give rise to any specific meaning. In the meantime, “SNEAKER”, combining “S” with “NEAKER” adjacent to it, is an English word familiar among relevant public to mean a type of the designated goods (shoes).
  3. It becomes usual to prevent successive letter in a coined mark consisting of two words where first word ends with a letter and send word starts with the same letter.
  4. Based on the foregoing, consumers at sight of disputed mark shall pay attention to a distinctive portion of “VANS” and are likely to conceive that the mark consists of two words, “VANS” and “SNEAKER” by omitting first or the last letter “S” of respective words.
  5. Consequently, the Court finds that disputed mark is likely to cause confusion with famous “VANS” sneakers when used on shoes.

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