Trademark Opposition: “iPhone” versus “SAIPHONE”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by the U.S. tech giant, Apple Inc. against trademark registration no. 6060316 for word mark “SAIPHONE” in class 9 and 18 by finding less likelihood of confusion with Apple “iPhone”.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900255]

“SAIPHONE”

Opposed mark, a word mark “SAIPHONE” in standard character, was filed by a Japanese business entity, STYLE Corporation, on September 28, 2017 by designating ‘mobile phones, smart phones, and its accessories, namely cases, covers and hands-free holders’ in class 9, and ‘purses and wallets, commutation-ticket holders, business card cases, bags and pouches, umbrellas, industrial packaging containers of leather’ in class 25.

STYLE Corporation promotes the “SAIPHONE” leather cases for iPhone (see below).

The JPO admitted registration on June 22, 2018 and published for registration on July 6, 2018.

APPLE’s Opposition

To oppose against registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Apple Inc. with AIPHONE Co., Ltd., as a joint claimant, filed an opposition on September 7, 2018.

In the opposition brief, Apple Inc. asserted the opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law given a remarkable reputation of opponent mark “iPhone” in the business field of smart phones and similarity to a senior trademark registration no. 5147866 for the word mark “iPhone” in standard character over mobile phones in class 9 effective since 2008.

Interestingly, “iPhone” is indeed a registered trademark owned by AIPHONE Co., Ltd. in Japan. Apple Inc. is an exclusive licensee of the mark.

Apple Inc. argued opposed mark “SAIPHONE” gives rise to a confusingly similar pronunciation and appearance to “iPhone”, since opposed mark contains a famous mark “iPhone” entirely and a mere difference on prefix “SA” is insufficient for relevant consumers anything but to conceive “iPhone” from opposed mark.

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.

Board Decision

The Opposition Board admitted a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity of opponent trademark “Apple” in connection with smart phones based on the produced evidences showing a more than 40% share of the market in Japan.

In the meantime, the Board found “SAIPHONE” and “iPhone” are totally dissimilar since they are sufficiently distinguishable in visual, phonetic, and conceptual point of view.
A fact that opposed mark contains “iPhone” is not persuasive on the case since relevant consumers with an ordinary case would see opposed mark in its entirety.
If so, it is likely that the consumers confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with Apple Inc. or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided the opposed mark shall not be cancelled on the grounds of Article 4(1)(xi) as well as (xv).


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

Apple Inc. Defeated in Trademark case over the name ‘MAC’ in Japan

The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by the U.S. tech giant, Apple Inc. against trademark registration no. 5986073 for a word mark “Face2Mac” due to unlikelihood of confusion with Apple’s famous trademark “Mac”.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900002, Gazette issued date: May 31, 2019]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark, consisting of a word mark “Face2MAC” in standard character, was filed in the name of Allied Telesis Holdings K.K., a Japanese company deploying in business field of network devices and cyber securities.

The mark was filed to JPO on January 31, 2017 and admitted registration on October 6, 2017 over the goods of “computer software; telecommunication machines and apparatus; electronic machines and apparatus; network cameras” in class 9, and other services in class 37, 42 and 45.

Opposition by Apple Inc.

During a two-months opposition period after registration, Apple Inc. filed an opposition.

Apple argued that opposed mark “Face2Mac” shall be retroactively cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law since opposed mark contains (i) a famous trademark “Mac” of Apple Inc. and (ii) a term “Face” which reminds consumers of Apple’s well-known mark “FaceID” and “FACETIME”. If so, relevant consumers and traders are likely to confuse or misconceive opposed mark with Apple or any business entity systematically or economically connected with opponent.

Article 4(1)(xv)

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 Opposition Board did not question a remarkable degree of popularity and reputation of trademark “Mac” as an abbreviated source indicator of opponent’s personal computers ‘Macintosh’.

In the meantime, the Board considered both marks distinctively give rise to a different impression in the minds of relevant consumers from visual, phonetical and conceptual points of view. Besides, the Board emphasized the term “MAC” is commonly used as an abbreviation to indicate ‘Media Access Control’ in business field of computers and telecommunications. According to produced evidences by opponent, Apple Inc. has continuously used the mark “Mac” with a big ‘M’ and small letters ‘ac’, but not in a configuration of “MAC” at all. Therefore, it is rather presumed that relevant consumers at the sight of opposed mark shall conceive of media access control from “Face2MAC”, than Apple’s famous trademark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded that relevant consumers of goods in question are unlikely to confuse opposed mark with Apple Inc. or any business entity systematically or economically connected with opponent.

Thus, opposed mark is not subject to Article 4(1)(x), and valid as a status quo.


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

Apple successful in a trademark opposition to block “PriPhone”

Apple Inc. achieved a victory over trademark battle involving famous “iPhone”.
In a recent trademark opposition, case no. 2017-900319, the Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided in favor of Apple Inc. to cancel trademark registration no. 5967983 for word mark “PriPhone” due to a likelihood of confusion with Apple’s famous “iPhone”.

“PriPhone”

Opposed mark “PriPhone” was filed by a Japanese business entity on December 26, 2016 by designating the goods of “mobile phones; smart phones; downloadable image and music files; telecommunication machines and apparatus; electronics machines, apparatus and their parts” in class 9.
The JPO admitted registration on July 28, 2017 and published for registration on August 22, 2017.

Apple’s Opposition

To oppose the registration, Apple Inc. filed an opposition against “PriPhone” on October 20, 2017.

In the opposition brief, Apple Inc. asserted the opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law given a remarkable reputation of opponent mark “iPhone” since nearly a quarter of Japanese have favorably used iPhone as a personal device to connect with internet.
Apple argued the opposed registrant knowingly included famous “iPhone” trademark on the ground that the company promotes protective cases, covers for iPhone.

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 both marks are dissimilar, but likely to cause confusion among relevant consumers because of a related impression attributable to reputation of the well-known mark.

Board Decision

The Opposition Board admitted a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity of opponent trademark “iPhone” among general consumers which occupies the highest share (54.1% in 2012) of the smart phone market for past five years consecutively.

In the assessment of mark similarity, the Board found “PriPhone” would be perceived containing “iPhone” in the mark, provided that “iPhone”, as a coined word, is deemed a unique and famous trademark. Besides, in view of close connection between smart phones and the goods in question, similarity with respect to consumers, it is undeniable that relevant consumers with an ordinary care are likely to conceive “iPhone” from opposed mark when used on goods in question.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that relevant consumers 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

Apple Inc. Lost Trademark Opposition to “SMAPPLE” in Japan

The Japan Patent Office dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by the U.S. tech giant, Apple Inc. against trademark registration no. 5987344 for word mark “SMAPPLE” in class 9 and 37 by finding less likelihood of confusion with Apple.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900006]

“SMAPPLE”

Opposed mark “SMAPPLE” was filed by a Japanese business entity on March 13, 2017 by designating mobile phones in class 9 and repair or maintenance service of mobile phones in class 37.
Going through substantive examination, the JPO admitted registration on September 15, 2017 and published for registration on November 7, 2017.

Apple’s Opposition

To oppose against registration, Apple Inc. filed an opposition on January 5, 2018.

In the opposition brief, Apple Inc. asserted the opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law given a remarkable reputation of opponent mark “APPLE” in the business field of computers, smart phones, tablets, and any related business.
Apple argued the first two letters of “SM” is descriptive in connection with repair and maintenance service since it is conceived as an abbreviation of “service mark”, to my surprise. In addition, as long as the term “SMAPPLE” is not a dictionary word, relevant consumers at the sight of the term are likely to consider that the opposed mark consists of “SM” and “APPLE”.

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 both marks are dissimilar, but likely to cause confusion among relevant consumers because of a related impression attributable to reputation of the well-known mark.

Board Decision

The Opposition Board admitted a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity of opponent trademark “Apple” in the business field to manufacture and distribute computers, smart phones, audio devices and mobiles phones etc., however, gave a negative view in relation to repair or maintenance service of mobile phones by taking account of insufficient evidences Apple Inc. produced to the Board.

Besides, in the assessment of mark similarity, the Board found “SMAPPLE” and “Apple” are totally dissimilar since they are sufficiently distinguishable in visual, phonetic, and conceptual point of view. The Board also questioned Apple’s argument the first two letters of “SM” does imply a meaning of service mark. If so, it is not permissible to separate a element of “APPLE” from the opposed mark. The mark shall be compared in its entirety. As long as “APPLE” is a familiar English term among relevant public to mean a round fruit with red or green skin and a whitish inside, the term shall not be deemed a coined word.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with Apple Inc. or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.


I feel the opposed mark rather gives rise to a connotation of “smart apple”, than “service mark” and “apple”.
“Service mark” is not commonly used in our daily life unless he or she has a knowledge of IP law (LOL).

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

Apple Inc. failed in a trademark opposition to block “Apple Assist Center”

The Japan Patent Office dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by the U.S. tech giant, Apple Inc. against trademark registration no. 59923763 for word mark “Apple Assist Center” in class 35, 36, and 43 by finding less likelihood of confusion.
[Opposition case no. 2017-900155]

“Apple Assist Center”

Opposed mark “Apple Assist Center” was filed by a Japanese business entity on July 22, 2016 by designating the services of “secretary services; telephone answering and message handling services; reception services for visitors” in class 35, “rental of business and commercial premises; management of buildings; providing information in the field of buildings for business and commercial use” in class 36, “rental of conference room; rental of exhibition room” in class 43.
As a result of substantive examination, the JPO admitted registration on February 17, 2017 and published for registration on March 21, 2017.

Apple’s Opposition

To oppose against registration, Apple Inc. filed an opposition on May 17, 2017.

In the opposition brief, Apple Inc. asserted the opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan 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. Theoretically, Article 4(1)(xv) is applicable to the case where a mark in question designates remotely associated or dissimilar goods or services with that of a well-known brand business.

Board Decision

The Opposition Board admitted a remarkable degree of reputation and population of opponent trademark “Apple” in the field of computers, smart phones, audio devices etc., however, gave a negative view in relation to goods and services remotely associated with Apple products by taking account of arguments and evidences Apple Inc. provided during the trial.

Besides, in the assessment of mark similarity, the Board found “Apple Assist Center” and “Apple” are dissimilar since they are sufficiently distinguishable in visual, phonetic, and conceptual point of view. The Board considered that the word of “Assist Center” does not immediately give rise to a descriptive meaning in relation to the designated service of class 35, 36, and 43. Given that “Assist Center” is deemed a coined word, it is not permissible to separate a element of “Apple” from the opposed mark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that, unless Apple Inc. demonstrates possibility to embark on business related to the designated services and overlapping of consumers between Apple products and the opposed mark, relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with Apple Inc. or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.


It surprises me that the Board considered “Assist Center” does not lack distinctiveness in relation to business support services.

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