On September 29, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, a manufacturer of golf equipment known as “PING”, against TM Reg no. 6465154 for wordmark “PingCAP” in classes 9, 35 and 42.[Opposition case no. 2022-900019]
The opposed mark, consisting of the wordmark “PingCAP” in standard character, was filed by Beijing PingCAP Xingchen Technology and Development Co., Ltd., for use on computer programs and computer-related goods and services in classes 9, 35, and 42 on December 7, 2020 (TM App no. 2020-150919).
The JPO examiner granted protection on October 25, 2021, and published for opposition on November 2, 2021.
Opposition by PING
Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, doing business as Ping, Inc., a manufacturer of golf equipment, better known as “PING” filed an opposition against “PingCAP” on January 21, 2022, and disputed, among other things, the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii) of the Japan Trademark Law.
Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit the registration of trademarks that contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name, or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof.
Karsten argued the term “PING” has been a famous abbreviation of Ping, Inc. (US subsidiary), or Ping Golf Japan Co., Ltd. (a Japanese subsidiary) in view of the substantial reputation of the golf brand “PING”.
The article does not require the famousness of the ‘name of any person where a trademark fully contains a business legal name. In other words, any mark containing a full name or business legal name shall be rejected under the article without the consent of the such person or business entity.
In the meantime, where the mark does not contain a full business name, but a part of the business legal name, the article is applicable only where the business entity can prove the famousness of the literal elements contained in the trademark filed by others.
The JPO Opposition Board found that, from the totality of the produced evidence, it is unobvious that the cited mark “PING” has become famous as an abbreviation of Ping, Inc. or Ping Golf Japan Co., Ltd, and decided the opposed mark shall not be subject to Article 4(1)(viii).
As mentioned above, the Japan Trademark Law prohibits the registration of a trademark that contains a full business name without the consent of the business entity even though the name has not become famous.
Where a trademark just contains a portion of a business legal name, it is prohibited only where the portion has become famous to indicate the entity.
Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP LAW – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM