The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) held in an opposition filed by Adidas AG (Opponent) that trademark registration no. 5897540 for the XIAT device mark (Opposed mark) shall remain as valid as ever and entirely dismissed Adidas’ claims in the opposition based on Adidas Trefoil logo.
[Opposition case no. 2017-900038, Gazette issued on March 30, 2018]
Opposed mark (see below) was applied for registration on June 10, 2016 by designating apparels and shoes of class 25 in the name of a Chinese business entity and published for registration on November 18, 2016 without confronting with office action from the JPO examiner.
Adidas Trefoil logo
Adidas AG, opponent, filed an opposition on February 9, 2017 and claimed that opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(vii) and 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law due to a conflict with Adidas Trefoil logo (see below).
Article 4(1)(vii) prohibits any mark likely to offend public order and morals from registering.
Trademark Examination Guidelines set forth examples to apply the article, e.g. trademarks generally considered contrary to the international faith, trademarks whose registration is utterly unacceptable for lack of social reasonableness in the background to the filing of an application for trademark registration.
Given a high degree of reputation and popularity of Adidas Trefoil logo, Adidas asserted, applicant must have been aware of the trefoil logo and filed opposed mark with a malicious intention to impermissibly cause the disorder in domestic and foreign trade
Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits to register a trademark which is likely to cause confusion with a business of other entity.
Adidas argued that the figurative element of opposed mark evidently gives rise to a same impression with the Trefoil logo in view of basic configurations consisting of two or three laurel leaves intersected by two or three stripes in parallel.
Besides, applicant has filed more than 253 trademark applications during the past 18 months. Some of them were refused by the JPO due to a conflict with famous mark.
Below mark is also subject to opposition contested by Adidas AG.
By taking into account famousness of the Trefoil logo, visual resemblance between the marks, and free-riding on opponent reputation and goodwill, relevant consumers are likely to cause confusion with Adidas at the sight of apparels or shoes using opposed mark.
Opposition Board decision
The Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and popularity to the iconic Adidas Trefoil logo in relation to sport shoes, sportswear, sports gear at the time of initial filing and registration of opposed mark.
In the meantime, the Board negated similarity and likelihood of confusion between the marks, stating that opposed mark never gives rise to a meaning and pronunciation of trefoil. From visual point of view, it is sufficiently distinguishable from the Trefoil logo. Fact that opposed mark happens to closely resemble a portion of the Trefoil logo is of little significance since Adidas Trefoil logo has acquired remarkable reputation in its entirety. If so, the Board feels it is unlikely that relevant consumers can perceive opposed mark as a cutout from the Trefoil logo.
Besides, even if it becomes suspicious whether applicant has a bona fide intention to use opposed mark, it is not objectionable under Article 4(1)(xv) since the Board finds both marks are dissimilar to the extent that there exists less likelihood of confusion.
Due to less likelihood of confusion between the marks, the Board is unable to foresee a circumstance to offend public order and morals from registering opposed mark and give harmful effect to the international faith.
Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded opposed mark shall not subject to Article 4(1)(vii) as well as (xv) and granted registration a status quo.
Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM