French fashion magazine “ELLE” Victorious in Trademark Opposition against “ELLEROSE”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) upheld an opposition filed by HACHETTE FILIPACCHI PRESSE, société anonyme (FR) and decided cancellation of Japanese trademark registration no. 6010765 for a composite mark containing “ELLROSE” due to a likelihood of confusion with a French fashion magazine “ELLE”.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900085, Gazette issued date: December 27, 2019]


Opposed mark, a composite mark consisting of three terms “ELLEROSE”, “STYLE UP”, “BODY SHAPE WEAR” aligned vertically in different font size and a silhouette of female lower body depicted in between ‘STYLE’ and ‘UP’ (see below), was applied for registration on July 25, 2017 for ‘underwear, socks, thermal supporters [clothing], waistbands, belts [clothing], special clothing for sports’ in class 25 by ELLEROSE Co., Ltd., a Japanese company. The JPO published opposed mark for registration on February 6, 2018.

ELLEROSE promoted the sales of women’s shapewear using the “STYLE UP” mark. Click here.

Opposition by ELLE

On April 6, 2018, just before the lapse of a two-months opposition period, HACHETTE FILIPACCHI PRESSE, société anonyme (hereinafter referred to as HFP), a French company responsible for the well-known women’s magazine ELLE, which had the largest readership of any fashion magazine in the world, with culturally specific editions published on six continents in the early 21st century, filed an opposition to “ELLEROSE”.

In the opposition, HFP contended that opposed mark shall be cancelled under Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law, stating that relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive opposed mark with HFP or any business entity systematically or economically connected with opponent due to high popularity of opponent’s fashion brand “ELLE” and close resemblance between opposed mark and “ELLE”.

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 Board admitted “ELLE” has acquired a high degree of reputation and popularity among relevant consumers and traders as a source indicator of opponent in connection with magazine as well as fashion items based on the facts that (i) “ELLE japon” fashion magazine has been published in Japan since 1982. Annual circulation of the magazine was 940,000 in 2014, (ii) HSP has continuously promoted and licensed the ELLE mark on various fashion items since 1987. The number of licensees increased over 30. It turned over JPY 4.8billion (approx. USD 43million) in 2017.

Besides, the Board found that it is allowed to cut out and compare respective element of opposed mark with opponent mark “ELLE” in assessing similarity of both marks since the Board can’t identify any visual, conceptual or phonetic linkage between the elements to comprehend opposed mark as a whole. Given the elements of “STYLE UP”, “BODY SHAPE WEAR” and a silhouette of female lower body are less distinctive, there is reasonable ground to believe that relevant consumers shall be impressed with the term “ELLEROSE” and consider it a dominant part of opposed mark.

Averages consumers would easily notice the term “ELLEROSE” consists of “ELLE” and “ROSE” which is a familiar French term meaning ‘a garden plant with thorns on its stems and pleasant-smelling flowers’, and then conceive a famous fashion brand, ELLE from the term when used on goods in class 25.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded that, relevant traders or consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive a source of opposed mark with HFP or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent when used on goods in class 25 and declared cancellation based on Article 4(1)(xv).

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