Dolce & Gabbana failed in a trademark opposition to block DolceSport

The Japan Patent Office dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by the Italian luxury firm, Dolce & Gabbana against trademark registration no. 6259630 for word mark “DolceSport” in class 18, 20, 22, 25, and 28 by finding a less likelihood of confusion with “Dolce & Gabbana.”[Opposition case no. 2020-900206, Gazette issued date: July 30, 2021]

“Dolce Sport”

Opposed mark, consisting of the word “Dolce Sport” in standard character, was filed by a Japanese company, SIS Co., Ltd. for use on various goods belonging to class 18,20, 22, 25 and 28 with the JPO on May 30, 2019 (TM Application no. 2019-83931).

The JPO admitted registration on June 15, 2020 and published for registration on July 7, 2020.

Opposition by Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana filed an opposition on August 19, 2020 and argued the opposed mark “Dolce Sport” shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law since relevant consumes are likely to confuse the source of goods bearing the opposed mark with Dolce & Gabbana because of a close resemblance between “Dolce Sport” and a word “Dolce” that has become famous per se as a source indicator of the opponent.

Article 4(1)(xv) is a provision to prohibit registration of a trademark which is likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

To apply the article, it is requisite that the mark of other entities has acquired a certain degree of reputation and popularity among relevant consumers in Japan.

Opponent produced evidence to demonstrate the word “Dolce” per se has been used on their goods, e.g. perfume, cosmetics, and bags. See below.

JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board did not admit the term “Dolce” per se has become famous as a source indicator of Dolce & Gabbana by stating that famous brand “Dolce & Gabbana” is obviously represented adjacent to the term “Dolce” on their goods. If so, the Board has good reason to believe that it would be unclear whether the term has acquired a certain degree of reputation as a source indicator of the opponent from the produced evidence. Besides, the Board questioned whether “Dolce” has been known as an abbreviation of “Dolce & Gabbana” due to the same reason.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that, even if the opposed mark “Dolce Sport” has a medium degree of similarity with the “Dolce” and the goods in question are somewhat associated with the opponent business, relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with Dolce & Gabbana by taking account of less originality of the term “Dolce” having a meaning of ‘sweet; dessert’ in Italian language and lack of good-will protectable under Article 4(1)(xv) enough to indicate a source of “Dolce & Gabbana”.

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