Trademark Opposition Case: “DROP” vs “THE DROP”

In a trademark opposition disputing similarity between “DROP” and “THE DROP”, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided to cancel TM Reg no. 6556243 for the mark “DROP” in class 35 due to similarity to IR no. 1258281 “THE DROP” in class 20 owned by Fritz Hansen A/S.
[Opposition case no. 2022-900306, decided on October 2, 2023]

Opposed mark “DROP”

Massdrop, Inc., a US e-commerce company, filed trademark application for word mark “DROP” in standard character for use on retail or wholesales services for various categories of goods including furniture in class 35 on October 9, 2018 (TM App no. 2018-126535).

The mark was registered on May 16, 2022 (TM Reg no. 6556243) and published for post-grant opposition on May 24, 2022.

Opposition by Fritz Hansen A/S

Fritz Hansen A/S, renowned Danish manufacturer of Scandinavian-style furniture, took a partial opposition action against the “DROP” mark on July 26, 2022 and claimed cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law due to similarity to earlier IR no. 1258281 “THE DROP” for use on furniture in class 20 owned by the opponent.

Fitz Hasen argued “THE” is merely a definite article with no particular meaning for Japanese citizens with ordinary care. It commonly happens in Japan that consumers do not pay attention to definite article in the prefix where it is followed by other words. For example, “THE BEATLES” is called just as “BEATLES”. The Japanese title of the movie “The Lord of the Rings” does not include “THE”. Under the circumstance, relevant consumers would consider “DROP” as a prominent portion of the cited mark. Therefore, the opposed mark shall be similar to the cited mark. Besides, the goods “furniture” in class 20 is deemed similar to retail or wholesale services for furniture in class 35.

If so, the opposed mark should be canceled in relation to “retail or wholesale services for furniture” of class 35 under Article 4(1)(xi).

JPO decision

In the decision, the JPO Opposition Board mentioned “THE” is a definite article that functions to specify the following noun, however is usually not translated into Japanese. A basic English word “THE”, familiar among general public in Japan, is less distinctive as a source indicator per se. It is quite possible that relevant consumers and traders at the sight of the cited mark would highly focus on the term “DROP” of the cited mark.

Therefore, the Board has a reason to believe the cited mark gives rise to a pronunciation of “DROP” and a meaning ‘a small round-shaped amount of liquid’.

If so, the opposed mark has the same sound and concept with the cited mark.

A mere difference in appearance is insufficient to find dissimilarity of mark since the opposed mark consists of the same alphabets with “DROP” of the cited mark.

Also, the Board found “furniture” in class 20 shall be deemed similar to “retail or wholesale services for furniture” in class 35 by taking into consideration commercial channels, suppliers and consumers of respective goods and services.

Based on the foregoing, the Board sided with Fritz Hansen A/S and decided a partial cancellation of the opposed mark in relation to “retail or wholesale services for furniture”.

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