Adidas scores win against adidog in trademark dispute

The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided in favor of Adidas AG to retroactively cancel trademark registration no. 5990777 for word mark “adidog” (Opposed mark) due to a likelihood of confusion with “adidas”.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900019, Gazette issued on August 30, 2019]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark “adidog”, a word mark in standard character, was filed on October 17, 2016 by an individual, designating clothing for pets in class 18 and published for registration on November 21, 2017 without confronting with office action from the JPO examiner.

TRADEMARK OPPOSITION – Article 4(1)(xv)

On January 16, 2018, before the lapse of a two-months opposition period, Adidas AG filed an opposition to opposed mark. In the opposition, Adidas AG contended opposed mark shall be cancelled based on Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits to register a trademark which is likely to cause confusion with a business of other entity.

Adidas AG argued opposed mark is likely to cause confusion with Adidas’ renowned trade name “adidas”, which enjoyed a high degree of reputation as a source indicator of Adidas sportswear and sports shoes both in Japan and abroad, because of visual resemblance between and opposed mark “adidog”, and close relatedness/proximity of goods in question.

Opposition Board decision

The Board found that:

  1. It is unquestionable that trade name “Adidas” has acquired a remarkable degree of reputation well before the filing date of opposed mark as a result of continuous use on sportswear and marketing activities in Japan since 1971.
  2. “Adidas”, coined after the name of opponent’s founder ‘Adi Dassler’, is an invented word with no dictionary and other known meaning. Besides, the Board could not find any words starting with ‘adid’ in language dictionaries of English, French, German and Italian as well as registered trademarks with the prefix ‘adid’ in Japan other than opponent mark.
  3. Opposed mark, consisting of six alphabets, starts with ‘adid’. In the meantime, stylized 5th letter ‘a’ of opponent mark looks like a device combining a short vertical bar with ‘o’. The final letter ‘s’ gives rise to a similar impression with ‘g’ since both letters have the same way of writing and configuration with a digit – ‘8’. Thus, opposed mark shall be deemed similar to “adidas” from appearance and sound.
  4. Clothing for pets is one of fashion items consumed by general public. Sportswear is also consumed by general public not only for exercise use but also fashion items. It becomes apparent that distributors of sports gears, apparels, bags, and shoes also deal with clothing for pets nowadays. If so, both goods shall be closely related.

Based on the above findings, the Board concluded that consumers who are accustomed to the circumstance, are likely to confuse clothing for pets using opposed mark with Adidas’ famous trade name “adidas” or misconceive a source from any entity systematically or economically connected with Adidas AG. Thus, opposed mark shall be cancelled in violation of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law.

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