Trademark Opposition: FITBIT vs Fitbeing

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with Google LLC in an opposition against TM Reg no. 6715471 for wordmark “Fitbeing” in class 14 by finding dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with “Fitbit” wearable devices.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900195, decided on June 28, 2024]


“Fitbeing”

Wordmark “Fiteing” was applied for registration in relation to “clocks and watches; watch bands and straps; stopwatches; watch cases [parts of watches]; clocks and watches, electric; chronometric instruments; presentation boxes for watches” in class 14 by a Chinese company with the JPO on January 4, 2023 (TM App no. 2023-172).

The JPO examiner did not issue an office action to the mark and granted protection on June 28, 2023. Subsequently, the mark was published for post-grant opposition on July 18, 2023.


Opposition by Google LLC

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Google LLC filed an opposition against the opposed mark on August 31, 2023.

Google argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for the wordmark “FITBIT” that has allegedly become famous as a source indication of Google’s wearable devices.

Google argued that due to the same spelling that starts with “FITB”, relevant consumers with an ordinary care would consider the opposed mark “Fitbeing” confusingly similar to the cited mark “FITBIT” from visual, aural and conceptual points of view.

By taking int consideration the high degree of reputation and popularity of the mark “FITBIT”, it is likely that the consumers would confuse a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with Google or their devices.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board found that, considering the evidence submitted, the mark “FITBIT” has not been widely recognized among the consumers to indicate Google’s wearable devices even if some of them may have known.

Secondly, the Board assessed the similarity of marks and states:

  • Comparing the marks “Fitbeing” and “FITBIT” visually, although they have the same initial letter “Fitb (FITB)”, there is a clear difference in the endings “ing” and “IT” and the number of letters is different from 8 to 6. Therefore, the two marks are visually different.
  • As regards pronunciation, although both marks have the same initial sound ‘fitbi’, they differ in the ending ‘-ing’ and ‘it’ and the number of sounds is not as long (8 and 6 sounds). This difference would make a meaningful difference in the overall pronunciation.
  • The conceptual comparison is not possible because both marks have no meaning.
  • Accordingly, the Board has reason to believe that both marks are dissimilar and unlikely to cause confusion, taking into account the overall consideration as well as the impressions, memories, associations of the consumers.

In light of the foregoing, the Board dismissed the entire opposition and granted status quo protection to the mark “Fitbeing” in class 14.

Guerlain Unsuccessful Opposition to “MITSOUKO” mark

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Guerlain, a legendary French perfume house, against TM Reg no. 6734165 for wordmark “mitsouko” in class 44 due to unlikelihood of confusion with perfume “MITSOUKO” by Guerlain.
[Opposition case no. 2023-90025, decided on June 27, 2024]


“mitsouko”

Yugen Kaisha AMERICA, a Japanese business entity, filed a trademark application for wordmark “mitsouko” in standard character for use on “beauty salon services, barbershops, massage, dietary and nutritional guidance, therapy services, rental of apparatus and instruments for use in beauty salons or barbers’ shops, providing medical information, manicuring, hair implantation” in class 44 with the JPO on March 22, 2023 (TM App no. 2023-30416).

The JPO examiner did not issue an office action to the mark and granted protection on September 5, 2023. Subsequently, the mark was published for post-grant opposition on September 15, 2023.


Opposition by Guerlain

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Guerlain, a legendary French perfume house, filed an opposition against the opposed mark on November 13, 2023.

Guerlain argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits the registration of trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

Guerlain contended that given the remarkable reputation and popularity of the perfume “MITSOUKO” by Guerlain and close association between perfume and the services in question, relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of services bearing the opposed mark with Guerlain.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board found that, considering the evidence submitted, the mark “MITSOUKO” may be recognized by persons having a deep knowledge of perfume, but there is a reasonable doubt whether the mark is widely known among relevant consumers to indicate the source of Guerlain perfume.

In addition, in view of the low degree of relatedness between beauty salon services, barbershops, massage, etc. and “perfume”, even if both marks are almost identical, it is unlikely that traders and consumers at the sight of the opposed mark used in relation to the service in question will associate or recall the cited mark, and consider a source of the services from an entity economically or systematically connected with Guerlain.

Therefore, the Board has no reason to believe the opposed mark shall be subject to Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law.

Even if the applicant has applied for the opposed mark with knowledge of Guerlain’s perfume “MITSOUKO”, the fact is insufficient to infer that the company has the purpose of making unfair profits or the purpose of causing harm to others. The submitted evidence does not reveal any fact to demonstrate a malicious intention by the applicant. If so, the opposed mark shall not be cancelled under Article 4(1)(xix).

Based on the above findings, the Board conclude that the opposition was without merit and thus granted protection to the opposed mark as the status quo.

Trademark Opposition: HUGO vs. Hugoo

In a recent administrative decision, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by German luxury fashion house Hugo Boss against Japanese TM Reg no. 6706891 for stylized word mark “Hugoo” in class 18.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900185, decided on June 11, 2024]


Opposed mark

Opposed mark, filed on May 31, 2022, by GRIT Incorporated, consists of the stylized word “Hugoo” (see below). The goods sought for registration are bags, baby carriers, sling bags for carrying babies and infants in class 18. GRIT sells sling bags for carrying babies and infants via their website.

The JPO granted protection to the mark on May 12, 2023, and published it for post-grant opposition on June 21, 2023.


Opposition by Hugo Boss

HUGO BOSS Trademark Management GmbH & Co KG filed an opposition against the opposed mark on August 21, 2023, and claimed the opposed mark “Hugoo” shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing its owned earlier trademark registration nos. 2301695, 3265268, IR776148, IR1657111, IR1676995 for the mark “HUGO”.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to prohibit registering a junior mark that is identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

HUGO BOSS argued that a mere difference on the 2nd letter “O” in the last is trivial from visual and phonetical points of view. Accordingly, the opposed mark “Hugoo” shall be considered similar to the cited mark “HUGO”. Besides, the goods in question are all similar to designated goods under the cited marks.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board denied similarity between “HUGO” and “Hugoo” by stating that:

There is a difference in the ending ‘oo’ or ‘O’. The difference has no small effect on the visual impression of the appearance of both marks, which are composed of five and four relatively short characters. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that both marks are clearly distinguishable in appearance.

From pronunciation, it is reasonable to conclude that both sounds are clearly audible and distinguishable since respective sound of both are clearly different.

Furthermore, both marks do not give rise to a specific meaning. Therefore, it is not possible to compare the conception of them.

Accordingly, both marks are distinguishable in appearance and sound, and incomparable in concept.

By making global assessment of the impression, memory and association of respective mark given to traders and consumers as a whole, the Board has reason to believe that both marks should be considered dissimilar without any possibility of confusion.

In the event that both marks are dissimilar, the opposed mark shall not be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), even though the goods in question are similar to those of the cited marks.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismiss the entire allegations of HUGO BOSS and allowed the opposed mark “Hugoo” to survive.

SpaceX Scores Win in Trademark Invalidation Action

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Space Exploitation Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in an attempt to revoke TM Reg no. 6613282 for the mark “SPACEX / spacex.co.jp” (cl. 25, 26) in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.
[Invalidation case no. 2023-890010, decided on June 4, 2024]


Contested mark

NDR Tech Co., Ltd. filed trademark application for a mark composed of the two word-elements “SPACEX” and “spacex.co.jp”, arranged in two lines (see below) for use on apparels and footwear in class 25 and insignias for wear, buckles for clothing, badges for wear, brooches for clothing, brassards in class 26 with the JPO on December 20, 2021 (TM App no. 2021-163633).

The JPO examiner granted protection to the mark on August 19, 2022.


Invalidation action by SpaceX

Space Exploitation Technologies Corporation, aka SpaceX, filed an invalidation action on February 15, 2023 and claimed the contested mark shall be invalidated in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii), (x), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit registration of trademark that contains the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name, or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof.

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits the registration of trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

SpaceX could not rely on Article 4(1)(xi) because their attempt to register the mark “SPACEX” in class 25 (TM App no. 2020-125746) was unsuccessful due to a conflict with the earlier TM Reg no. 6222450 for wordmark “SPACEX” owned by NDR Tech.

SpaceX argued that the mark “SpaceX” has been widely recognized as a commercial name of the claimant among the general public in Japan even before the time of initial application of the contested mark due to its frequent appearance in print and broadcast media.

NDR Tech asserted that the domain name “spacex.co.jp” is only available to companies registered in Japan. As the proprietor of the domain, they have a legitimate interest in registering and owning the contested mark.


JPO decision

The JPO Invalidation Board admitted that the mark “SpaceX” has become famous among the general public as an abbreviation of the claimant.

It is obvious that the contested mark contains the term “SPACEX” and “spacex”, which are known as a famous abbreviation of the claimant. Based on the fact that NDR Tech did not obtain the consent of SpaceX, the contested mark does not comply with the requirements of Article 4(1)(viii).

Bearing in mind that the mark “SpaceX” has been used on T-shirts, hoodies and caps, the Board has reasons to believe that relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of goods in question bearing the contested mark with SpaceX. If so, the contested mark shall be revoked under Article 4(1)(xv) as well.

In the decision, the Board noted ‘The fact that NDR Tech owns the domain “spacex.co.jp” is irrelevant to the invalidity of the contested mark based on the above articles.’

Chrysler Lost Trademark Opposition against “GEEP”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US) LLC against TM Reg no. 6689119 for the mark “GEEP” with device (cl. 18, 25) due to dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with the mark “JEEP”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900142, decided on May 31, 2024]


“GEEP”

A Japanese individual filed a trademark application for the mark “GEEP” with device (see below) for use on goods “bags and pouches; umbrellas; canes; clothing for pets” and others in class 18, and “clothing; belts; footwear; masquerade costumes; sports shoes; sportswear” and others in class 25 with the JPO on October 14, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-118091).

The JPO examiner did not issue an office action to the mark and granted protection on April 4, 2023. Subsequently, the mark was published for post-grant opposition on April 20, 2023.


Opposition by FCA US LLC

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, FCA US LLC filed an opposition against the opposed mark on June 19, 2023.

FCA argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the JEEP mark as a source indicator of Chrysler vehicles and a high degree of similarity between the opposed mark “GEEP” and the opponent’s famous earlier registered mark “JEEP.”

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision that prohibits the registration of a junior mark that is deemed identical with, or similar to, any earlier registered mark.

FCA contended that the opposed mark “GEEP” is similar to its own trademark “JEEP,” a globally famous automobile brand given a mere difference in the first letter “G” and “J”. Besides, the goods in question are identical or similar.

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits the registration of trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

FCA contended that given the high degree of resemblance between the opposed mark and “JEEP”, relevant consumers of the goods in question are likely to confuse a source of goods bearing the opposed mark with the opposing party.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted that the mark “JEEP” has been widely recognized among general consumers to indicate the source of FCA’s goods and business.

However, the Board found both marks dissimilar on the grounds that:

  1. There are visual distinctions in the presence and absence of the blue device and between the first letter “G” and “J”. Thees differences are significant and clearly distinguishable in appearance. Consequently, both marks are anything but confusingly similar in appearance.
  2. The opposed mark does not give rise to a specific concept, whereas the cited mark has a meaning of “FCA’s automobile brand.” Accordingly, there is no risk of confusion in concept.
  3. Relevant consumers would consider respective mark different even if both marks have the same sound, because of clear distinction in appearance and concept as well as the overall impression of both marks.

By taking account of a low degree of similarity between the opposed mark and “JEEP”, and remote association between the goods in question and automobiles, the Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse the source of goods bearing the opposed mark with “JEEP”.

Based on the above findings, the Board conclude that the opposition was without merit and thus granted protection to the opposed mark as the status quo.

Trademark dispute: MARNI vs. MARNO

The Italian fashion brand “MARNI” lost the trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6658657 for the wordmark “MARNO” (cl. 14,18,25). The Japan Patent Office (JPO) found both marks dissimilar and less likelihood of confusion because there was insufficient evidence to support a certain degree of recognition of the mark “MARNI” among general consumers.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900065, decided on May 16, 2024]


“MARNO”

Godo Kaisha MARNO filed a trademark application for the word mark “MARNO” in standard character for use on goods “precious metals; jewelry; key rings; jewelry boxes; personal ornaments; clocks and watches” in class 14, “bags and pouches; umbrellas; canes; clothing for pets” in class 18, “clothing; belts; footwear; masquerade costumes; sports shoes; sportswear” in class 25 with the JPO on July 29, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-88022).

Apparently, the applicant promotes apparels for lady using the mark on their website.

The JPO examiner did not issue an office action to the application and granted protection on December 13, 2024. Subsequently, the mark was published for post-grant opposition on January 13, 2023.


Opposition by MARNI

Marni Group S.r.l., an Italian luxury fashion house, filed an opposition on March 13, 2023 just before the lapse of a two-month statutory period and claimed the opposed mark “MARNO” shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations (TM Reg no. 4842090, 4791866, 4786424, 3200522, 2339221, 6676890, IR1007074, IR1520528, IR1689338, IR698847) for the mark “MARNI”.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision that prohibits the registration of a junior mark that is deemed identical with, or similar to, any earlier registered mark.

MARNI contended that the opposed mark “MARNO” is similar to its own trademark “MARNI,” a globally renowned fast-fashion brand given a mere difference in the last letter “O” and “I”. Besides, the goods in question are identical or similar.

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits the registration of trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

MARNI contended that the mark “MARNI” has become renowned among relevant consumers in connection with apparel. Given the high degree of resemblance between “MARNO” and “MARNI” as well as the goods, it is likely that consumers will confuse or misconceive the goods bearing the opposed mark “MARNO” with “MARNI.”

Article 4(1)(xix) proscribes the registration of a trademark that is identical with or similar to another entity’s famous mark if the trademark is intended for the purpose of gaining unfair profits or causing damage to the entity.

MARNI contended that the applicant had filed the opposed mark with the intention of obtaining unfair profits through free-riding on the well-known trademark “MARNI”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted that the mark “MARNI” has been recognized among consumers who has high interest to fashion to some extent from the produced evidence, however, in view of the facts that the dates of the evidence are after the grant of protection of the opposed mark, the period and evaluation method of the brand ranking is unclear, and no evidence regarding the sales amount and advertisement of the goods bearing the mark MARNI are provided, the Board questioned whether the mark “MARNI” has been widely recognized among general consumers to indicate the source of MARNI’s goods and business.

Next, the Board assessed similarity of mark. In appearance and sound between “MARNO” and “MARNI”, the distinction of “O” and “I” at the end of the word has a significant impact on the overall visual and oral impression of the two marks, which both have only five letters and three sounds. Therefore, the marks are visually and phonetically distinguishable. Since both marks do not give rise to any specific meaning, it is impossible to compare the concept of the two marks. Accordingly, the Board has reason to believe that both marks are significantly dissimilar.

By taking account of insufficient recognition of the mark “MARNI” among relevant consumers and a low degree of similarity between two marks, it is unlikely that the consumer at the sight of the goods in question bearing the opposed mark confuse the source with MARNI.

Besides, the evidence presented to the Board does not provide grounds to believe that the applicant intended to obtain profits through the exploitation of the well-known trademark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the opposition entirely.

Trademark battle: FORTNITE vs FORTNIGHT

In an invalidation trial against TM Reg no. 6389929 for word mark “FORTNIGHT” in classes 9, 16, 28, 35, 41 and 43, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not rule in favor of Epic Games, Inc. due to an unlikelihood of confusion with “FORTNITE”.
[Invalidation case no. 2023-890068, decided on May 9, 2024]


FORTNIGHT

A Japanese company sought registration of word mark “FORTNIGHT” in standard character for use on various goods and services in classes 9, 16, 28, 35, 41 and 43 (including games) with the JPO on June 4, 2018 (TM App no. 2028-79647).

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a likelihood of confusion with famous game software and distribution platform “FORTNITE” managed by Epic Games, Inc.

However, the JPO Appeal Board disaffirmed the rejection by stating that there is no reason to find “FORTNITE” has been widely recognized among relevant consumers to indicate Epic business and the applicant deleted games from designation. If so, it is unlikely that relevant consumers would not confuse the source of goods and service bearing “FORTNIGHT” with Epic’s “FORTNITE”.

The mark “FORTNIGHT” was registered on June 8, 2021.


Invalidation action by Epic Games, Inc.

Epic Games, Inc. is an American video game development and distribution company, widely known for the success of “Fortnite”, a free multiplayer online video game first released in 2017, and its game marketplace. On August 10, 2021, Epic filed a post-grant opposition against TM Reg no. 6389929 “FORTNIGHT” on August 10, 2021, but the opposition was unsuccessful (Opposition case no. 2021-900304).

On August 22, 2023, Epic filed an invalidation action and claimed that the mark “FORTNIGHT” should be invalidated in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Epic repeatedly argued “FORTNIGHT” has a high degree of similarity to “FORTNITE” from visual, phonetical and conceptual points of view. Taking account of famous online game “FORTNITE” among game users and close relation between online games and the goods and services in question, relevant consumers are likely to confuse “FORTNIGHT” with “FORTNITE”.

Given that the initial filing designated the game in question, it is presumed that the company had knowledge of the well-known online game software “FORTNITE” and aimed to benefit from its reputation.


JPO decision

The JPO Invalidation Board found that “FORTNITE” has been widely recognized to indicate video games of Epic among consumers and traders in video game industry. However, given that the launch of the video games in Japan precedes the application date of the mark “FORTNIGHT” by three months, such recognition would be limited to the industry.

With regard to the similarity of the marks, the Board stated, “Although “FORTNIGHT” and “FORTNITE” share the same sound, they are distinguishable in appearance, and the concepts are not comparable. In assessing the overall impression, the Board has a reason to find a low degree of similarity between the marks.”

In light of the aforementioned findings, the Board determined that relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse the source of the goods and services in question bearing the mark “FORTNIGHT” with “FORTNITE.”

Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that the applicant had any malicious intention of free-riding on or damaging Epic’s online video games “FORTNITE.”

Consequently, the Board dismissed the invalidation action and declared the validity of TM Reg. No. 6389929.

P&G Unsuccessful attempt to register 3D shape of SK-II bottle

In an attempt to register TM App no. 2020-1611 for 3D mark representing a bottle shape of the SK-II Facial Moisturizing Lotions, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) upheld the examiner’s rejection and dismissed the appeal filed by The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G).
[Appeal case no. 2022-6, decided on May 9, 2024]


SK-II

P&G filed a trademark application for 3D bottle shape of the SK-II cosmetic lotions (see below) in class 3 with the JPO on February 14, 2020 (TM App no. 2020-1611).

SK-II is a Japanese-based multinational beauty brand with premium skincare solutions sold in East Asia, North America, Europe, and Australia, launched in the early 1980s.

Allegedly, domestic sales of the “SK-II” facial treatment essence (moisturizing lotions) contained in the applied 3D mark were approximately JPY 10 billion to 16.5 billion in each of the fiscal years from 2016 to 2020.


Article 3(1)(iii)

The JPO examiner rejected the 3D mark based on Article 3(1)(iii) of the Japan Trademark Law due to a lack of inherent distinctiveness.

Article 3(1)(iii) is a provision to prohibit registration of any mark that is descriptive in relation to designated goods and service. Trademark Examination Guideline (TEG) refers to 3D bottle shape of goods as an example subject to the article.

Where trademark is merely recognized as the shapes of designated goods (including shape of packages), it is evaluated just to indicate the “shape” of the goods. Moreover, the same principle shall apply to cases where a trademark is recognized as part of the shapes of designated goods (including their packages).


Article 3(2)

P&G argued acquired distinctiveness of the 3D mark as a result of substantial use. However, the examiner rejected the argument, stating that since the applied mark has been consistently used with the word mark “SK-II” on every bottle, there is no reason to believe that the 3D shape perse has played a role in identifying the source of the cosmetics.
Therefore, the applied mark shall not be registrable based on Article 3(2) of the Trademark Law due to a lack of acquired distinctiveness.


JPO decision

The JPO Appeal Board found the applied mark should be rejected in accordance with Article 3(1)(iii) due to the prevalence of cylindrical bottles in the contexts of cosmetics and other industries.

In its decision, the Board noted that a considerable amount of sales had been made to date and that advertising and promotional activities had been conducted at a considerable expense. The SK-II cosmetics bearing the 3D mark have been extensively advertised through a variety of channels, including magazine advertisements, TV commercials, events, and other campaign activities. They have also been widely covered by the web media and other media outlets.

In the meantime, the Board pointed out the use of distinctive words, such as “SK-II”, “SECRET KEY II”, “MAX FACTOR” etc., on the bottle of the CK-II facial moisturizing lotions. In this respect, there is no sufficient evidence and material featuring the 3D mark so that consumers at the sight of advertisements can consider the bottle shape as a source indicator.

Besides, P&G did not produce evidence of brand awareness survey to demonstrate acquired distinctiveness of the bottle shape. The registration of the same mark in other jurisdictions, such as the United Arab Emirates and South Korea, does not have any binding power in Japan when it comes to evaluating distinctiveness.

Based on the above findings, the Board concluded that the 3D mark per se has not acquired distinctiveness and should not apply Article 3(2).

Trademark dispute: “SOFTWEAR” vs “SOFTWAIR”

In an appeal trial disputing similarity between wordmark “SOFTWEAR” and “SOFTWAIR”, the JPO reversed the examiner’s rejection due to the error in finding dissimilarity of two marks.
[Appeal case no. 2023-20831, decided on April 24. 2024]


SOFTWEAR

DuPont Safety & Construction, Inc., a US corporation, sought registration of wordmark “SAFTWEAR” in standard character for use on blankets, gloves, masks, protection masks, protective suits for medical use in class 10 with the JPO on August 22, 2022.


SOFTWAIR

The JPO examiner rejected the applied mark due to a conflict with TM Reg no. 6719284 for wordmark “SOFTWAIR” in standard character owned by Air Wair International Ltd based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law.

The earlier mark covers not only shoes, sports shoes, but also clothing in class 25.

DuPont filed an appeal against the examiner’s rejection on December 7, 2023 and argued that the examiner had errored in assessing similarity between the mark “SOFTWEAR” and “SOFTWAIR”.


JPO decision

The JPO Appeal Board found the applied mark “SOFTWEAR” is not a word included in common dictionaries. Even tough respective term “SOFT” and “WEAR” has its meaning, there is no reason to believe the mark give rise to any specific meaning as a whole.

Likewise, the cited mark “SOFTWAIR” would not have a specific meaning in its entirety. But it should note that the Board found the cited mark has three pronunciations, ‘sɔft weər’, ‘sɔft waɪr ’ and  ‘sɔft ueia’.

From appearance, in spite that they consist of the same kind (alphabet) and number of characters, two marks are clearly distinguishable, because of the difference of two characters “EA” and “AI” in the middle of the eight-character composition.

Even if two marks have the same pronunciation of ‘sɔft weər’, when compared with ‘sɔft waɪr ’ and  ‘sɔft ueia’, the difference in the middle of the entire five or six sounds would result in a clear distinction in the overall tone and feeling.

Conceptually, it is unable to compare since both marks do not give rise to a specific meaning at all.

Based on the above findings, the Board held that even if the applied mark has the same pronunciation with one of the sounds of the cited mark, other two sounds are sufficiently distinguishable to the sound of the applied mark. Besides, both marks are not comparable in conception, and clearly distinguishable in appearance. When taking into consideration the impressions and memories given in mind of consumers by two marks, there is no risk of confusion as to the origin of the goods, and thus the Board has a reason to believe “SOFTWEAR” is dissimilar to “SOFTWAIR”.

Therefore, the examiner errored in finding similarity of the marks and applying Article 4(1)(xi). Accordingly, the rejection shall be overturned.

Tennis King Roger Federer Defeated out of the Court

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Tenro AG, a Swiss company established by Tennis King Roger Federer, against Japanese TM Reg no. 6691122 for mark “Roger King” in class 28 by finding dissimilarity to IR nos. 1529136 “THE ROGER” & 1529148 “ROGER” and unlikelihood of confusion.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900151, decided on April 23, 2024]


Roger King

Hirota Gold Inc. applied trademark application for stylized word mark “Roger King” (see below) in relation to golf clubs, golf club head covers, golf bags, golf gloves, golf equipment, and sports equipment of class 28 with the JPO on February 1, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-11297).

The applicant is engaged in the business of promoting golf clubs bearing the applied mark.

The JPO granted protection of the applied mark on April 14, 2023, and then published it for post-grant opposition on April 27, 2023.


Opposition by Tenro AG

Tenro AG, a Swiss company established by Tennis King Roger Federer, filed an opposition against the applied mark “Roger King” and claimed the mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing their owned earlier trademark registration nos. IR 1529136 for wordmark “THE ROGER” and IR 1529148 for wordmark “ROGER” in class 25.

Tenro AG argued that when “Roger King” is used in connection with the designated goods in question (athletic equipment), relevant consumers will associate the famous Roger Federer. Since Mr. Federer is called “King Roger”, they will undoubtedly consider the opposed mark as the name of Mr. Federer. Consequently, the opposed mark and the cited marks are deemed similar because they share the same sound and appearance, and both give rise to the same meaning as the famous Roger Federer.


JPO decision

Initially, the JPO Opposition Board found that although Roger Federer is widely recognized as a prominent tennis player, he is not typically abbreviated as “Roger.” Furthermore, there is no concrete evidence indicating the scope and method of advertising and market share in Japan for goods using the cited marks. Therefore, the Board has no reason to believe that the cited marks are widely recognized as a source indicator of the claimant’s business among Japanese consumers.

Secondly, in evaluating the similarity of the marks, the Board held that, from appearance and sound, both marks are clearly distinguishable as a whole due to the presence and absence of “THE” and/or “KING”. Besides, the opposed mark does not have a specific concept. Meanwhile, the cited marks give rise to a meaning of a man’s name. If so, there is no similarity and confusion in concept.

In the absence of a convincing demonstration of the fame of the cited mark and a low degree of similarity between the opposed mark and the cited marks, it is unlikely that relevant consumers will confuse a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with Mr. Roger Federer or the claimant’s business.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) and dismissed the opposition entirely.