“PIKA-Q” is unlikely to confuse with a well-known iconic mascot name, “PIKACHU”

PIKACHU

Opposition Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided to dismiss an opposition filed by Nintendo Co., Ltd. who claimed trademark registration no. 5845409 for the word mark “ピカキュウ” (to be pronounced as “PIKA-Q”) in a standard character designating goods of “lighting apparatus for automobiles; electric lamps” in class 11 and “retail or wholesale services dealing with the goods” in class 35 should be cancelled due to a likelihood of confusion with senior trademark registrations (Citation 1 and 2) pertinent to a well-known iconic mascot name “PIKACHU”, a fictitious monster appeared in Pokémon of opponent’s commercial interest [Case No. Opposition 2016-900226].

PIKACHU vs. PIKA-Q

JPO admitted “PIKACHU” has attained a certain level of recognition amongst consumers as Pokémon characters name in association with opponent’s game and toy businesses, however, concluded that opposed mark is distinguishable from and distinctively dissimilar to the citations on the following grounds.

– In appearance, the word “ピカキュウ” of opposed mark written in Katakana characters looks similar to “ピカチュウ” in the citations since visual difference in a middle letter of “キ” and “チ” is trivial in light of resembled configuration of respective letter consisting of two horizontal lines and a vertical line.

– But, “PIKA-Q” and “PIKACHU” are phonetically distinguishable as a whole since both terms are different in overall nuance and tone by taking into consideration of a non-negligible effect caused by difference in the third sound of “kyu” and “chu”, and a few phonetic composition of four sounds in total.

– Both marks are deemed incomparably dissimilar in concept on the condition that opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning, but the citations are perceived as PIKACHU in Pokémon.

Besides, the Board held that relevant consumers are not only unlikely to associate or misconceive opposed mark used on the goods/services supra with the citations but also connect or confuse a source of the goods/services with opponent or related entities with commercial or organizational interest should it remain unclear whether opponent does or will expand business in association with the goods/services of opposed mark. Finding that any goods licensed by opponent is remotely associated with the opposed goods/services and the citations representing Pokémon characters do not correspond to a so-called “house mark” in opponent business, JPO concluded as mentioned above.

“PIKA-Q” appears a trademark parody originated from well-known iconic mascot name, “PIKACHU”. It is presumed that actual use on LED lamp for automobiles implying a meaning of quality of the lamp (PIKA is an imitative word to describe sudden brightness of lamp in Japanese) may affect to the Board decision.

MASAKI MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law (Japan)

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

Nintendo sues go-kart company over copyright infringement and disputes over “MariCar” trademark

 

Copyright infringement lawsuit

On February 24, 2017, Nintendo Co., the Kyoto-based video game giant filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court against a Tokyo-based go-kart service operator, MariCar, for alleged copyright violations.

MariCar rents out go-karts that have been modified to run on public roads.

The go-kart service is exceedingly popular with foreign tourists, with many of the participants donning costumes that look similar to Nintendo game characters such as Super Mario.
http://maricar.com/


In the suit, Nintendo claims MariCar violated copyright by renting unauthorized costumes of Nintendo game characters such as Super Mario to its customers and using pictures of them to promote its business.

Nintendo is seeking ¥10 million in damages from the company and an end to the alleged copyright infringement.


Dispute over the MariCar trademark  

Nintendo also alleged in an opposition over the MariCar trademark registration No. 5860284 covering goods and services in class 12 ,35 and 39 that MariCar is an abbreviation of “Mario Kart,” one of its blockbuster game titles, however, the JPO rules against Nintendo to admit go-kart company keep MariCar trademark in a decision dated Jan. 26, 2017 [Opposition No. 2016-900309].

In the opposition, Nintendo claimed that MariCar was widely interpreted by the public as short for “Mario Kart,” citing other examples of popular video games that go by abbreviated nicknames in Japanese, such as “Pokemon” for “Pocket Monsters,” “Pazudora” for “Puzzle & Dragons” and “Sumabura” for “Super Smash Bros.”
Consequently, the Opposition Board of JPO denied it and held the trademark MariCar was neither widely used nor recognized by game users as an abbreviation of Nintendo’s blockbuster video game title “Mario Kart,” adding that it was “an unassociated trademark.”

 


 

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

ETRO was defeated with a trademark opposition over famous Pegasus emblem

The Opposition Board of JPO decided two figurative marks depicting Pegasus are deemed dissimilar from phonetic, conceptual and visual point of view and dismissed an opposition filed by ETRO S.P.A. [Opposition no. 2014-900325].

etro

Opposition by ETRO

ETRO disputed the opposed mark should be cancelled based on Article 4(1)xi of the Trademark Law due to similarity to ETRO’s famous Pegasus emblem (Opponent mark).

In an opposition brief, ETRO alleged both marks are considered confusingly similar in appearance on the grounds that both marks depict an image of Pegasus getting up on hind legs in silhouette. Besides, they are confusing in concept as well since both marks give rise to a meaning of Pegasus in the mind of consumers. Consequently, the opposed mark is deemed similar to famous Pegasus emblem.

Board decision

In the meantime, the Opposition Board concluded both marks are dissimilar contrary to ETRO’s allegation.

With respect to concept, it becomes usual to depict Pegasus in different posture and style. A mere fact that both marks share same image of Pegasus is insufficient to determine visual aspect of respective mark by taking into consideration of circumstance that Pegasus is legendary creatures as well. Thus, it is not permissible to admit both marks simply give rise to a meaning of Pegasus. Rather, they should respectively be considered a mark having no specific meaning at all.

Regarding appearance, obviously there exists difference in depicting Pegasus. Pegasus in the opposed mark gets up on hind legs. Meanwhile, the opponent mark apparently is galloping. Such difference produces distinctive impression in the mind of consumers. Difference in direction and detail depicting of Pegasus should not be neglected.

As a conclusion, the opposed mark is deemed dissimilar to famous Pegasus emblem of ETRO.

1187hirai%e4%bf%ae%e6%ad%a3003_2MASAKI MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law (JAPAN) – MARKS IP LAW FIRM

Cancellation of Trademark Registration Filed with Malicious Intent

The Opposition Board of JPO declared cancellation of trademark registration No. 5778852 for the mark composed of a prancing horse design and term “Cavallino Lampanti” (Opposed mark) covering the goods in class 18 and 25 on the grounds that Opposed mark was registered with malicious intent to resemble a renowned horse emblem of opponent, Ferrari S.p.A., known for “cavallino rampante”, and free ride remarkable reputation bestowed on the opponent marks. [Opposition Case No. 2015-900335]

ferrari-opposition

In the opposition decision, the Board did not clearly admit similarity of the horse design depicted in both marks regardless of conceptual similarity, however, concluded the term “Cavallino Lampanti” of Opposed mark and a name “cavallino rampante” of Opponent mark are highly similar in both appearance and sound.

Besides, admittedly Opponent marks have been well known among general public in Italy even prior to an application date of Opposed mark. Opponent has promoted several goods belonging to class 18 and 25 e.g. bags, necktie, T-shirts, wallets, shoes to Japanese customers as well.

Based on the above facts, presumably an applicant of Opposed mark must have been acquainted with such circumstances and Opponent’s business. If so, it is not deniable to conclude that Opposed mark was filed with malicious intent to harm Opponent business and free ride valuable reputation bestowed on famous brand.

As a conclusion, the Board cancelled Opposed mark based on Article 4 (1) (xix) of the Trademark Law.

 

Article 4(1)(xix)

“No trademark shall be registered if the trademark is identical with, or similar to, a trademark which is well known among consumers in Japan or abroad as that indicating goods or services pertaining to a business of another person, if such trademark is used for unfair purposes (referring to the purpose of gaining unfair profits, the purpose of causing damage to the other person, or any other unfair purposes, the same shall apply hereinafter).”

 

Article 4(1)(xix) aims to prevent unauthorized entities from registering a well-known mark in foreign country even if the mark itself has not yet acquired high recognition in Japan to the extent relevant domestic consumers become aware of such situation in foreign country. The article plays a significant role in attacking a fraudulent trademark registration where it designates goods or services remotely associated with business of a famous brand owner.

1187hirai%e4%bf%ae%e6%ad%a3003_2Masaki MIKAMI – Attorney at IP Law (Japan)

MARKS IP LAW FIRM http://www.marks-iplaw.jp/

“AQUA COLLAGEN GEL” is not a descriptive term, but a source indicator by means of acquired distinctiveness.

On October 27, 2016, the IP High Court ruled to uphold a decision by JPO declaring cancellation of opposed mark “ Dr.Coo / AQUA COLLAGEN GEL” due to conflict with senior registrations containing a term of “Aqua-Collagen-Gel” (Case no. Heisei 28 (Gyo-ke) 10090).

JPO declared cancellation of the opposed mark “Dr.Coo / AQUA COLLAGEN GEL” (see below) covering goods of “Collagen gel cosmetics; collagen gel soaps” in class 3 on the grounds that the mark is confusingly similar to senior trademark registrations cited by an opponent, an owner of Dr. Ci:Labo brand.

 aqua-collagen-gel

Applicant of the opposed mark filed a lawsuit against the decision to the IP High Court. In the lawsuit, applicant alleged that it was JPO’s error to have considered “AUQ COLLAGEN GEL” as a distinctive term in relation to the designated goods of class 3 since the term merely describes quality or material of goods in dispute and thus it can’t even take a role of source indicator.

 

In view of material facts that an opponent has consecutively used the term “Aqua-Collagen-Gel” on cosmetics since 1999, cumulative quantity of the cosmetics amounts to 30 million by the year 2015, recent annual sale of the cosmetics exceeds 12 billion JP Yen and frequent TV advertisement and publications, the IP High Court admitted the term “Aqua-Collagen-Gel” has independently served function as a source indicator of the opponent even if opponent’s cosmetics depict so-called house mark “Dr. Ci:Labo” adjacent to Aqua-Collagen-Gel”.

Based on above findings, the Court dismissed applicant’s argument to insist dissimilarity of both marks on the grounds that average consumers are likely to pay attention to a term “AQUA COLLAGEN GEL” in configuration of the opposed mark and consequently associate the term with opponent products irrespective of existence of “Dr.Coo”.