JPO refused to register word mark “ROMEO GIGLI” due to lack of consent from Italian fashion designer

In a recent decision, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) refused to register trademark application no. 2015- 100245 for a red-colored word mark “ROMEO GIGLI” in gothic script (see below) designating goods of Class 24 and 25 on the grounds that applicant failed to obtain a consent from Italian fashion designer, Romeo Gigli, based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law.[Case no. 2017-3558]

Disputed mark was filed on October 16, 2015 in the name of ECCENTRIC SRL, an Italian legal entity, by designating following goods in Class 24 and 25.

Class 24:

“woven fabrics; elastic woven material; bed and table linen; towels of textile; bed blankets; table cloths of textile; bed covers; bed sheets; curtains of textile or plastic; table napkins of textile; quilts”

Class 25:

“clothing; T-shirts; shirts; jumpers; trousers; pants; jackets; skirts; jeans; neckties; overcoats; coats; belts; gloves; mufflers; sweat suits; underwear; swimsuits; headgear; hats; caps; footwear; special footwear for sports”

 

Article 4(1)(viii)

On December 9, 2016, JPO examiner refused the mark based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit registration of trademarks which contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof. Notwithstanding the provision, the article is not applicable where the applicant of disputed mark produces the written consent of the person.

The Supreme Court of Japan has ruled the article shall be interpreted to protect personal rights of a living individual. In line with the Supreme Court ruling, Trademark Examination Manuals (TEM) set forth that the article is applicable not only to natural persons (including foreigners) and corporations but also associations without capacity. Familiar name of foreigners falls under the category of “abbreviation” if its full name contains middle name(s) unknown to Japanese consumer.

Click here to access TEM on the JPO website.

Finding that disputed mark just consists of an individual name of famous fashion designer, Romeo Gigli, the examiner raised an objection based on Article 4(1)(viii) unless ECCENTRIC SRL obtains a consent from the designer.

 

APPEAL

The applicant filed a notice of appeal with the Appeal Board, a body within JPO responsible for hearing and deciding certain kinds of cases including appeals from decisions by JPO Examiners denying registration of marks, on March 9, 2017 and contended against the refusal decision by examiner.

During the appeal trial, ECCENTRIC SRL argued inadequacy of the decision by demonstrating following facts.

  • ECCENTRIC SRL is a legitimate successor of trademark rights owned by Romeo Gigli as a consequence of mandatory handover resulting from bankruptcy of company managed by Romeo Gigli irrespective of his intention. Under the circumstance, it is almost impossible to obtain a written consent from him.
  • In the meantime, ECCENTRIC SRL has already obtained trademark registrations for the word mark “ROMEO GIGLI” in several jurisdictions.
  • Besides, ECCENTRIC SRL is a current registrant of Japanese TM registration no. 2061302 for identical wordmark in Class 4,18,21 and 26.
  • There has been no single complaint from consumers, traders or Romeo Gigli in person.

ECCENTRIC SRL alleged that the above facts shall amount to having obtained an implicit consent from Romeo Gigli in fact. Thus, disputed mark shall be allowed for registration even without a written consent in the context of purpose of the article.

The Appeal Board dismissed the appeal, however, and sustained the examiner’s decision by saying that trademark registrations in foreign countries shall not be a decisive factor in determining registrability of disputed mark under Article 4(1)(viii) in Japan. Absence of complaint from Romeo Gigli shall not be construed that he has consented to register his name in the territory of Japan explicitly or implicitly.

Unless applicant produces evidence regarding a consent from Romeo Gigli otherwise, disputed mark shall be refused to register based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law.

According to the JPO database, ECCENTRIC SRL filed an appeal against the Board decision to the IP High Court in November 2017. The Court decision will be rendered within a couple of months.


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

 

Name of a deceased historical person as trademark

Trademark containing the name, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person in-life, or famous abbreviation thereof is prevented from registering based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Japanese Trademark Law.

 Article 4(1)(viii) is applicable only to a person in-life, however.

What happens to the name of a deceased historical person?

 JPO admitted to register the following surname of historical person as trademark filed during the past half decade by an entity apparently unrelated to the person or his descendant.

Reg No. 5501361 for word mark “CLEOPATRA” in class 31

Reg No. 5610909 for word mark “NAPOLEON” in class 14

Reg No. 5870913 for word mark “EDISON” in class 21

Reg No. 5744685 for word mark “MOZART” in class 11

Reg No. 5514116 for word mark “NEWTON” in class 9, 41

Reg No. 5744686 for word mark “PICASSO” in class 11

Reg No. 5537255 for word mark “KENNEDY” in class 25

 

Meanwhile, “ANNE FRANK”, “JOHN LENNON”, “JAMES DEAN”, “MARILYN MONROE”, “CHAPLIN”, and “MOTHER TERESA” has been registered as a trademark owned by specific organization

 

Trademark Examination Manual (TEM) 42.107.04 revised in 2009 refers to approach to application filed for registering a trademark created after the name of a historical person or name of a well-known or famous deceased person.

 1. In the process of examining an application filed for registering a trademark, examiners should pay special attention to the application for a trademark created after the name of a historical person since using or registering such application may cause damage to social and public interest, irrespective the unobjectionable composition of the trademark, or generally-accepted sense of morality, which may fall under Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Act. Specifically, they should analyze such application if it would fall under the provision, comprehensively taking the following backgrounds into consideration:

1) Popularity of the well-known or famous historical person;

2) Acceptance of the name of the historical person among the nation or region;

3) Availability of the name of the historical person;

4) Relationship between the availability of the name of the historical person and the designated goods or services;

5) Circumstance, purpose, or reason of the application; and

6) Relationship between the historical person and the applicant.

2. In the process of the examination said above, especially when examiners recognize the application as “an application for registering the trademark filed by the applicant who takes advantage of the measures for public interest using the name of a historical person, who hinders the execution of the measures, and who intends to monopolize the interest while he/she knows that the application would result in damaging public interest,” the application falls under Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Act based on the idea that the application may disrupt the order of fair competition and cause damage to social and public interest.

 In a lawsuit disputing invalidity of mark “CARNEGIE SPECIAL”, the court ruled that the registered trademark as a whole was invalidated due to violation of public policy because it was presumed that the plaintiff had illegally intended to use the achievement of Dale Carnegie Note (1888 – 1955), famous writer, for his own business. (Decision by the Tokyo High Court, August 29, 2002 [2001 (Gyo Ke) No. 545])

To sum up, since 2009, it becomes evident that where an applied mark corresponds to the name of a historical person, the mark shall not be registered if its registration is likely to cause damage to public policy on the ground of violation of Article 4(1)(vii) and TEM 42.107.04. Inter alia, where a specific organization manages IP right of historical person, JPO will refuse registration of the name of such person accordingly.