The JPO dismissed an opposition claimed by Slim Chickens Holdings LLC, a US fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in chicken tenders and wings, against TM Reg no. 6524092 for the wordmark “Slim Chickens” on restaurant services in class 43.
[Opposition case no. 2022-900179, decided on February 16, 2023]
Slim Chickens opened in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, US, with a focus on fresh, delicious food with a southern flair in a fast-casual setting. With more than 190 locations opened and a fanatical following in 30 U.S. states, as well as international locations in the United Kingdom, the eternally cool brand is an emerging national and international franchise leading the “better chicken” segment of fast-casual restaurants with a goal to grow over 600 restaurants over the next decade.
Opposition against TM Reg no. 6524092
Food Revamp Co., Ltd, a Japanese company, filed a trademark application for the word mark “Slim Chickens” in standard character for use on restaurant services in class 43 with the JPO on May 6, 2021.
The JPO admitted registration of the mark (TM Reg no. 6524092) on March 8, 2022, and published for opposition on March 16, 2022.
Slim Chickens Holdings LLC (SCH) filed an opposition with the JPO on May 2, 2022, and argued the mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.
Article 4(1)(xv) provides that a mark shall not be registered where it is likely to cause confusion with other business entities’ well-known goods or services.
Article 4(1)(xix) prohibits registering a trademark that is identical with, or similar to, another entity’s famous mark, if such trademark is aimed for unfair purposes, e.g., gaining unfair profits, or causing damage to the entity.
The JPO Opposition Board did not find a high level of popularity of “Slim Chickens”, a US fast-casual restaurant chain, among relevant consumers in Japan as well as the US and other countries by stating:
It is admitted that SCH opened a restaurant in the U.S. in 2003, and the first Slim Chickens franchise in 2013. SCH restaurant chain was ranked third in the “Best Casual Restaurant” category in 2020. SCH has used the “Slim Chickens” mark on their business and restaurant chain that has been considerably introduced in US magazines and online news sites.
However, SCH did not produce sufficient evidence other than media coverage to suggest their business performance in US and UK.
Therefore, the Board has no reason to believe that the “Slim Chickens” mark has been widely recognized among consumers in the US and other countries as a source indicator of the SCH restaurant chain.
Even if SCH restaurant chain has achieved sales of USD120 million and about 135 stores in the US and 10 stores in the UK, taking account of the total sales (USD10.06 billion) and the number of stores in the US (9,630) of Dunkin’ Donuts, which is introduced on the same coverage with SCH, and 9 mega restaurant chains opens over 1,000 stores in Japan, it is doubtful if “Slim Chickens” has acquired a high level of recognition even among consumers in US and UK.
In Japan, although there are magazines and web pages introducing the “Slim Chickens” restaurant chain, the number of such magazines and web pages is merely 6 from July 2017 to April 2022, and above all, there is no fact that SCH has opened a restaurant in Japan. If so, there is no reason to consider the “Slim Chickens” mark is widely recognized among relevant consumers in Japan.
Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations and decided the opposed mark shall remain valid as the status quo.
Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP LAW – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM