On July 26, 2023, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Hermes International in an invalidation trial against TM Reg no. 6275593 for the wordmark “HAIRMES” by finding the owner’s unjustified intention to free-ride and dilute the famous fashion brand “HERMES” and cause confusion.[Invalidation case no. 2022-890082]
Dog Diggin Designs, LLC applied a wordmark “HAIRMES” in standard character for use on beds for household pets; pillows for pets; pet cushions in class 20, and toys for pets in class 28 with the JPO on October 16, 2019. Apparently, the company promotes parody dog toys & dog beds, and other pet supplies.
Hermes International filed a post-grant opposition against the disputed mark with the JPO on October 15, 2020, and argued the disputed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(x), (xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the HERMES brand in the fashion industry and a high degree of similarity between “HAIRMES” and “HERMES” likely to cause confusion among relevant consumers in Japan.
The JPO Opposition Board decided to dismiss the opposition by finding unlikelihood of confusion due to a low degree of similarity between the marks. Click here.
Invalidation action by Hermes
Hermes International filed an invalidation action with the JPO based on the same grounds on October 18, 2022, and repeatedly argued the owner must have had an intention to imitate and free-ride on reputation and goodwill of the famous fashion brand “HERMES” by making use of similar trade dress with Hermes packaging color and design in addition to similar HAIRMES mark.
The JPO Invalidation Board admitted that “HERMES” has been widely recognized as a luxury fashion brand and source indicator of Hermes International.
In the assessment of similarity of mark, the Board found both marks are dissimilar in sound and concept. However, these marks give a similar visual impression by sharing the first letter “H” and the four letter “RMES” in the latter half of respective word, which catches the attention of consumers. If so, the Board has a reason to believe there is a certain degree of similarity between the marks.
The Board paid attention to a fact that the owner promotes pet beds and pet toys bearing similar color and decoration to the iconic Hermes packaging. Based on the circumstances, the Board had a view that presumably the owner, knowing that the HERMES mark has been widely recognized among consumers in Japan, must have had an intention to free-ride or dilute reputation on HERMES.
Based on the foregoing, the Board found relevant consumers are likely to confuse the source of pet beds and toys bearing the disputed mark with Hermes International in view of close association with fashion items as well, and decided to invalidate the disputed mark entirely.
Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP LAW – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM