JPO decision: TESLA is dissimilarly pronounced to Tesla

In a recent appeal decision over trademark dispute, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) overturned the Examiner’s refusal and held the stylized TESLA mark is dissimilarly pronounced to a senior trademark registration for the “Tesla” word mark.

[Appeal case no. 2017-650037, Gazette issue date: February 22, 2019]

 

Stylized TESLA mark

U.S. electric automaker Tesla, Inc. (formerly Tesla Motors, Inc.) filed an application with the Japan Patent Office to register stylized TESLA mark as a trademark for “Articles of clothing, namely, t-shirts, shirts, jackets, hats; headgear, namely, sports hats, caps, sun visors.” in class 25 and “Providing financial services relating to automobiles, namely, automobile financing and lease-purchase financing; financing services for the purchase and leasing of motor vehicles; lease-purchase financing; credit services, namely, providing financing for motor vehicles; providing financial advice in the field of motor vehicles.” in class 36.

 

Senior TM registration for “Tesla”

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 a senior trademark registration no. 5533558 for word mark “Tesla” in standard character for clothing, caps and foot wears in class 25 owned by a Korean individual.

There is criterion that the examiner is checking when assessing 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 June 30, 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:

From appearance, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable because the 2nd and last letter of applied mark are too indecipherable to be perceived as a specific term in its entirety.

As long as applied mark does not give rise to any specific sound and meaning as a whole, applied mark is incomparable with cited mark “Tesla” in the aspects of pronunciation and connotation.

Based on the foregoing and criterion to assess similarity of mark, the Board is of a view that the stylized TESLA mark shall be dissimilar to senior registration for the word mark “Tesla” even if the designated goods are deemed identical or similar in class 25.


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

Trademark Opposition: “DISCOVERY” vs. “DISCOVERER”

In a recent administrative decision to trademark opposition filed by Jaguar Land Rover Limited who alleged trademark registration no. 6011666 for word mark “DISCOVERER” designating goods of “batteries and cells, telecommunication machines and apparatus, recorded video discs, and other goods” belonging to class 9 owned by a Japanese business entity is confusingly similar to “DISCOVERY” famous for four-wheel-drive vehicles produced by the opponent, the Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed the opposition due to an unlikelihood of confusion.

[Opposition case no. 2018-900086, Gazette issue date: January 25, 2019]

 

Opposed mark – DISCOVERER

Opposed mark (trademark registration no. 6100666) just consists of a term “DISCOVERER” in a plain roman type and its transliteration in a Japanese katakana character.

The mark was filed on April 24, 2017 by designating “batteries and cells, telecommunication machines and apparatus, recorded video discs, and other goods” belonging to class 9.

JPO, going through substantive examination, admitted registration and published for opposition on February 13, 2018.

 

Opposition by Land Rover “DISCOVERY”

On April 6, 2018, before the lapse of a two-months opposition period, Jaguar Land Rover Limited filed an opposition, stating that relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive opposed mark with opponent or any business entity systematically or economically connected with Land Rover due to high popularity of “DISCOVERY” for Land Rover SUV and similarity between “DISCOVERY” and “DISCOVERER”.

 

Article 4(1)(xv)

Jaguar Land Rover sought to retroactively cancel opposed mark in relation to all designated goods in class 9 based on Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law.

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 users’ benefits.

 

Board decision

The Board negated a certain degree of popularity and reputation of opponent mark “DISCOVERY”, 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 visual, phonetic and conceptual points of view and deemed dissimilar.

Even if car makers are looking at ways to speed up development of self-driving and recent cars consist of batteries and telecommunication apparatus in fact, given non-originality of opponent “DISCOVERY” mark and remoteness between opposed goods and vehicles, the Board held that relevant consumers of opposed goods are unlikely to confuse or associate “DISCOVERER” with opponent or any business entity systematically or economically connected with Jaguar Land Rover Limited.

Thus, opposed mark shall not be revocable to Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law and dismissed the opposition entirely.


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

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

JPO sided with Apple Inc. over trademark battle between Mac and MacEdge

Apple Inc. has won a trademark opposition it lodged against GIGAZONE INTERNATIONAL CO., LTD., a Taiwanese company, over Japanese trademark registration no. 5877027 for word mark “MacEdge”.
[Opposition case no. 2016-900375, Gazette issued date: April 27, 2018]

OPPOSED MARK “MacEdge”

Opposed mark “MacEdge” (see below) was applied for trademark registration in Japan on March 10, 2016 by designating several accessories of computers in class 9.

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) admitted registration of the mark on August 8, 2016 and published the gazette under trademark registration no. 5877027 on September 27, 2016.

Apple “Mac” Computer and Operating system

In an opposition, Apple Inc. argued opposed mark violates Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law based on famous Apple “Mac” computer and operating system which have been continuously distributed under various trademarks, e.g. MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini, mac OS, Mac OS X, since 1984.

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 users’ benefits.

Apple Inc. pointed that MacEdge website operated by the opposed party (see below) is likely to cause confusion with opponent since the front page looks similar to that of Apple’s website and it refers to opponent products.

 

Board decision

The Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and popularity of opponent trademark “Mac” in the field of personal computers. In the assessment of mark similarity, the Board found “MacEdge” could be perceived as a combination of “Mac” and “Edge” because of two capital letters of “M” and “E”. As long as the “Mac” trademark becomes famous as a source indicator of Apple Inc. in the field of personal computers, relevant consumers are likely to connect opposed mark with opponent since the term “Mac” in opposed mark is almost identical with Apple “Mac” trademark. In the meantime, the term “Edge”, a common English word, is less distinctive and does not give rise to any specific meaning in combination with “Mac”.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that relevant consumers who purchase accessories of computers are likely to confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with Apple Inc. or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.
If so, opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation Article 4(1)(xv) of the trademark law.


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

OMEGA unsuccessful in cancelling OMEGA mark

The Japan Patent Office dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by a Swiss luxury watchmaker, OMEGA SA against trademark registration no. 5916814 for the OMEGA mark in class 41 by finding less likelihood of confusion due to remote association between watches and services in class 41.
[Opposition case no. 2017-900136]

Opposed OMEGA mark

Opposed mark (see below) was filed by a Japanese business entity on April 28, 2016 by designating the services of “fortune-telling; educational and instruction services relating to arts, crafts, sports or general knowledge; providing electronic publications; Art exhibition services; Reference libraries of literature and documentary records; production of videotape film in the field of education, culture, entertainment or sports; photography etc.” in class 41.


As a result of substantive examination, the JPO admitted registration on January 27, 2017 and published for registration on February 28, 2017.

OMEGA’s Opposition

To oppose against registration, OMEGA SA filed an opposition on April 28, 2017.

In the opposition brief, OMEGA SA asserted the opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing the owned luxury watch brand of OMEGA (see below).

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 users’ benefits. Theoretically, Article 4(1)(xv) is not applicable to the case where a mark in question is objectionable under Article 4(1)(xi), which prohibit a junior mark from registering if it is deemed identical with or similar to any senior registration. Article 4(1)(xv) plays a key role where a junior mark designates remotely associated or dissimilar goods or services with that of a well-known brand business.

Board Decision

The Opposition Board admitted similarity of both marks and a remarkable degree of reputation and population of opponent OMEGA mark in relation to watches, however, questioned whether such reputation has prevailed even among relevant consumers of designated services in class 41 as long as opponent failed to produce sufficient evidences regarding the issue.

Based on remote association between watched and services designated under the opposed mark, the Board decided that, by addressing less creativity of the OMEGA mark originating from a familiar Greek alphabet even to Japanese with an ordinary care, relevant consumers of designated services in class 41 are unlikely to confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with OMEGA SA or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

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