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

“WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING” is less likely to cause confusion with “WORLD SERIES” owned by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.

The Opposition Board of JPO (Japan Patent Office) dismissed an opposition claimed by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., a US corporation managing trademark portfolio pertinent to US major league baseball, and determined to sustain trademark registration no. 5858151 for word mark “WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING” [Opposition case no. 2016-900288].

WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING

The mark in question consists of a standard character mark “WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING” covering the goods of apparels, shoes, caps, underwear, uniforms and sportswear (class 25) and the service of entertainment or events relating to Mixed Martial Arts (class 41).

OPPOSITION by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.

Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. filed an opposition based on the grounds that (i)WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING” conflicts with senior trademark registrations for the mark “WORLD SERIES” owned by the opponent due to similarity between marks, (ii) there finds a likelihood of confusion with the source between marks because of high recognition of “WORLD SERIES” to indicate the annual championship of baseball games between the champions of the two major baseball leagues in the United States, the American League and the National League.

Similarity between marks

In evaluating the similarities between marks, the Board analyzed the similarity in the sight, sound and meaning of the marks.
The Board concluded “WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING” is easily distinguishable from “WORLD SERIES” in appearance and pronunciation as a consequence of “FIGHTING” at the end of the mark in question. Besides, “WORLD SERIES OF FIGHTING” gives rise to meaning of a series of global events pertinent to martial art match. In the meantime, “WORLD SERIES” can be conceived to mean the championship games between major baseball leagues in the United States. Evidently, both marks are dissimilar from a conceptual point of view.
Accordingly, both marks are deemed dissimilar.

Likelihood of confusion

As long as both marks are distinctively dissimilar in the sight, sound and meaning as mentioned supra, relevant consumers at an ordinary care are unlikely to confuse or associate the source of the mark in question with the opponent when used on goods and services in dispute even if “WORLD SERIES” has become well-known for a source indicator of the opponent among consumers in Japan.

Accordingly, the Board concluded the opposition should be denied since it lacks grounds to be sustained.


I have no idea why the Board denied a likelihood of confusion between marks despite admitting a widespread reputation of “WORLD SERIES”.
As long as opposed mark contains a famous mark “WORLD SERIES” entirely, it should be cancelled on the goods of class 25 at least in view of similarity between goods in dispute.

MASAKI MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law, Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM

 

Similarity of Goods and/or Services

Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japanese Trademark Law stipulates that trademark is not registrable if it is identical with, or similar to, another entity’s senior registration provided that the applied trademark is used in connection with the same designated goods or designated services related to the senior registration.

In evaluating dissimilarity of goods or services between the applied mark and senior registration, JPO relies on “Examination Guidelines for Similar Goods and Services (EGSGS).”

EGSGS, in compliance with the Nice Classification, categorize goods having commonality in terms of the production sector, the sales sector, raw materials, qualities, etc.; or services having commonality in terms of how they are being offered, the purposes for which they are being offered, the places they are being offered, etc.

It aims to determine which goods or services belong to which group in light of above commonality, and therefore, in principle, goods/services in each group is deemed similar respectively.

Each group is numbered with a five-digit, common, alphanumeric code, which is called “Similar Group Code (SGC)”.

Similar Group Code (SGC)

As an established examination practice, JPO has considered any goods and services assigned to the same SGC to be in principle similar to each other.

[Example of SGC for goods]

–       Cl.16 Books (26A01)

–       Cl.24 Towels (17B01)

[Example of SGC for services]

–       Cl.41 Educational services for art, sports, or knowledge (41A01)

–       Cl.44 Medical practices (42V02)

 

Same code can be numbered even if each goods/services is classified in different class based on the Nice Classification, vice versa.

[Example of same SGC in different class]

–       Cl.14 Jewelry case (20A01) similar to Cl.20 Furniture (20A01)

[Example of different SGC in same class]

–       Cl.16 Books (26A01) dissimilar to Cl.16 Pencils (25B01)

 

As trademark practitioner, SGC provides us useful information in assessing registrability of a junior mark and possibility of trademark infringement.

In the meantime, occasionally it becomes an unexpected obstacle in view of less likelihood of confusion in the course of actual trade.

Similar code system is introduced in neighboring Asian countries, such as Korea and China.

 

If you want to find more information on SGC, please visit at a website of the JPO for your reference.

https://www.jpo.go.jp/tetuzuki_e/t_tokkyo_e/goods_services_10-2016.htm