Marks IP Wins Trademark Dispute to Register 3D Shape of Hard Rock Guitar Hotel

On August 8, the Appeal Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and decided to grant protection of IR no. 1440057 for a 3D guitar-shaped mark in relation to a casino game, hotel, restaurant, and bar services.

[Appeal case no. 2021-650016]


IR no. 1440057

Seminole Tribe of Florida (STF) filed a 3D guitar-shaped mark (see below) for use in providing casino game services (cl. 41) and hotel, restaurant, and bar services (cl.43) with the JPO via the Madrid Protocol on October 23, 2018.

The 3D mark represents the iconic Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in Florida, USA, newly opened in October 2019.

The JPO examiner rejected the 3D mark based on Article 3(1)(vi) of the Trademark Law due to a lack of distinctiveness in relation to the services of classes 41 and 43. The examiner asserted that the mark consists of a three-dimensional shape recognized as a building in the shape of a guitar as specified by the applicant in the description of the mark stating “The mark consists of a building in the shape of a guitar”. Given there are buildings in the shape of a musical instrument (see below), and the designated services are generally provided in stores or buildings, relevant consumers would consider that the 3D mark simply represents a form of a store or building to provide hotel restaurants, bars, and casino when used on the services in question, not a source indicator.


Appeal

Marks IP, on behalf of STF, filed an appeal against the rejection and argued the inherent distinctiveness of the 3D mark in relation to the designated services because a guitar shape would never directly suggest or imply the specific quality of a casino, hotel, restaurant, and bar services.

In the course of appeal proceedings, the JPO notified a provisional opinion to affirm the examiner’s rejection by stating:

“In general, the shape of a store to provide services is adopted for the purpose of enhancing functionality and aesthetics. In fact, there are many stores or buildings that have a distinctive and unique appearance as shown below.

If so, it is reasonable to conclude that the 3D mark in question remains within the scope of shape just to enhance the aesthetic or attractive effect to the store from appearance, and that relevant consumer would not recognize the mark as a source indicator.”

In response, Mark IP argued the cited stores and buildings are no facilities for a casino, hotel, restaurant, and bar services. In addition, the shape of these facilities per se plays a role in source indicator by virtue of its eccentric design that is sufficiently distinguishable from other buildings. As a matter of fact, consumers have already recognized them as a landmark in the region and connected their shape with the name and business of the respective facilities. In the event that a three-dimensional shape is not foreseeable to consumers in relation to goods and services, it should be considered inherently distinctive.


JPO decision

The Appeal Board eventually decided to reverse the examiner’s rejection by stating:

“Even if the 3D mark can be recognized as a guitar-shaped building, it is difficult to consider that the 3D mark represents a form of a store or building to provide a hotel or restaurant when used on the services in question. Therefore, even if the 3D mark is used in connection with the designated services, consumers will be able to recognize the mark as a source indicator of the services by a certain business entity. If so, the Board has reason to believe the examiner errored in finding distinctiveness of the 3D mark and applying Article 3(1)(vi).”

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded the 3D mark shall not be rejected under Article 3(1)(vi) of the Trademark Law and decided in favor of Hard Rock!

Unsuccessful opposition against LEGOHAIR

On August 3, 2022, the JPO Opposition Board dismissed a trademark opposition filed by toy giant, Lego Juris A/S against TM Reg no. 6445411 for the “Lego Hair” mark with a device in class 44 by finding dissimilarity to and the unlikelihood of confusion with “LEGO”.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900432]


Lego Hair

The opposed mark, consisting of the word “Lego Hair” and a device (see below), was filed by the hair salon provider Lego Hair Co., Ltd., for use in hair styling services, hair treatment salon services, hair coloring services, skin caring, body caring, manicuring, beauty salon services, barbershops, and other related services in class 44 with the JPO on October 26, 2020.

The JPO granted protection of the Logo Hair mark on September 13, 2021, and the mark was published for opposition on October 12, 2021.


Opposition by Lego

LEGO Juris A/S, the world’s largest Danish toy manufacturer, filed an opposition on the final day of a two-month duration for opposition, and argued the Lego Hair mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier TM Reg no. 2621425 and IR 1006003 for the stylized LEGO mark (see below).

LEGO argued that given the word “Hair” is descriptive in relation to the services in question, the term “Lego” shall be a prominent portion of the opposed mark as a source indicator accordingly. In view of the high reputation and popularity of the stylized LEGO mark, relevant consumers are likely to associate the opposed mark with LEGO and confuse the source when used on hair salon services.


JPO decision

The Opposition Board admitted the stylized LEGO mark has acquired a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity as a source indicator of the opponent’s goods and business. In the meantime, the Board questioned whether the term “LEGO” perse has become famous among relevant consumers as well by taking into consideration the produced evidence.

The Board had a view that the literal portion “Lego Hair” of the opposed mark shall be considered in its entirety. Based on the finding, the Board held the opposed mark is dissimilar to the stylized LOGO mark from visual and phonetical points of view. In concept, the stylized LEGO mark gives rise to a meaning of “famous brick- toy brand by LEGO”, but the opposed mark has no specific meaning. If so, both marks are incomparable from the concept.

Because of a low degree of similarity of the mark and less relatedness between toys and hair salon services, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers would confuse a source of the services in question bearing the opposed mark with the opponent or any entity systematically or economically connected with LEGO.

Based on the foregoing, the Opposition Board found the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii), (xi), (xv), and (xix) and decided to remain valid.

NIVEA vs NYFEA

On August 2, 2022, the JPO Opposition Board found “NYFEA” is dissimilar to “NIVEA” and unlikely to cause confusion with international skin care major Beiersdorf AG even when used on goods in class 3 including skin-care cream.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900350]


NYFEA

The opposed mark, consisting of a stylized word “NYFEA” (see below), was filed by a Chinese company, Shenzhen VKK Technology Co., Ltd for use on various goods in classes 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, and 21 with the JPO on July 2, 2020.

The application designates cakes of toilet soap, cleansing milk for cosmetic purposes, detergents, beauty masks, nail varnish, dentifrices, perfume, and incense in class 3.

The JPO admitted registration of the NYFEA mark on June 15, 2021, and published for post-grant opposition on July 20, 2021.


Opposition by Beiersdorf AG

The German cosmetics giant, Beiersdorf AG filed an opposition against the NYFEA mark on September 21, 2021, and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law due to a conflict or likelihood of confusion with the world’s largest skincare brand “NIVEA”.

Beiersdorf alleged the NIVEA mark has been substantially used on skin-care creams in Japan since 1968. By virtue of effective advertising, sales promotion, and marketing for long years, NIVEA has acquired a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity among relevant consumers in Japan. As matter of fact, the mark “NIVEA” written in Japanese Katakana character is included in the famous trademark database managed by the JPO.

In view of the close resemblance between NIVEA and NYFEA, and the famousness of NIVEA, relevant consumers would confuse the source of the goods in class 3 bearing the opposed mark with the opponent.


JPO decision

To my surprise, the JPO negated the famousness of the NIVEA mark by stating “the opponent failed to produce sales amount, market share, and materials of promotional advertising in our jurisdiction at all. A mere allegation that the opponent promoted skin-care creams bearing the NIVEA mark for over five decades is insufficient to find a remarkable degree of the reputation of the opponent’s mark in Japan. Besides, the Board held a fact that the mark “NIVEA” written in Japanese Katakana character is included in famous trademark database would not affect the above finding. Being that the opponent did not prove a high degree of reputation and popularity of “NIVEA” at the time of filing and registration of the opposed mark with evidence, the Board had no reason to believe the opponent mark remains famous as a source indicator of skin-care goods by Beiersdorf AG.

In the assessment of similarity, the Board found both marks are distinguishable in appearance because of differences in the second and third letters, “YE” and “IV” among five letters in total. Likewise, the difference in the second sound would give rise to a distinctive impression in view of a few phonetic compositions of three sounds in total. Both marks are incomparable to the concept.

Based on the foregoing, the Opposition Board found no reasonable ground to cancel the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) and decided to dismiss the opposition entirely.

LE MANS, Unsuccessful Trademark Race spending more than 24 Hours

On July 29, 2022, the Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed a trademark opposition filed by AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE L’OUEST (A.C.O.), an owner of the mark “LE MANS”, against TM Reg no. 6374059 for wordmark “Le mans de elegance” on apparels in class 25.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900248]


Le mans de elegance

The opposed mark, consisting of the word “Le mans de elegance” in standard character, was applied for use on clothing, garters, sock suspenders, braces [suspenders] for clothing, waistbands, belts [clothing], footwear, masquerade costumes, sports shoes, clothes for sports in class 25 by a Japanese company named Analogue Co., Ltd. on October 15, 2020.

The JPO granted protection on March 12, 2021, and published for opposition on April 27, 2021.


Opposition by ACO

Opponent, AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE L’OUEST, alleged the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for the LE MANS mark in classes 25.

ACO argued that the mark “LE MANS” is famous to indicate the oldest sports car race “24 hours of Le Mans”. Due to the remarkable reputation of the mark “LE MANS” and the descriptive meaning of the term “de elegance” in relation to apparel, relevant consumers would see the literal element “Le mans” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark. If so, both marks shall be deemed similar from phonetical and conceptual points of view. Besides, there are precedent cases in which the JPO admitted close relatedness between automobile races and clothing. Taking into consideration the above facts, it is likely that relevant consumers would confuse the source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with 24 hours of Le Mans and its organizer, or an entity systematically or economically connected with ACO.


JPO decision

The JPO found “The 24 hours of Le Mans” has been known for a major car race, however, questioned whether the term “LE MANS” has also become famous to indicate the race from the totality of the circumstances and the produced evidence by pointing out a fact that the term “LE MANS” has been frequently used with “24”. Consequently, the Board held the mark “LE MANS” has not acquired a certain degree of reputation and popularity as a source indicator of auto races among relevant consumers in Japan.

The Board assessed the similarity of mark in its entirety and found the opposed mark is dissimilar to the mark “LE MANS” from visual, phonetical, and conceptual points of view by stating that the cited mark gives rise to a meaning of a city in northwestern France.

In view of a low degree of similarity between the marks and recognition of the mark “LE MANS”, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers would confuse a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the entire allegations and decided the opposed mark to remain valid as the status quo.

No confusion between “InstaShop” and “Instagram”

On July 27, 2022, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and found TM Application no. 2019-152946 for “InstaShop” with device mark is dissimilar and thus unlikely to cause confusion with a famous mark “Insta” known as an abbreviation of “Instagram”.

[Appeal case no. 2021-12444]

InstaShop

The applied mark consists of a red rectangle with rounded corners, a motif depicting a white shopping basket, the term “InstaShop” in white with large font, and “Convenience delivered” in black with a smaller font (see below).

The mark was filed in the name of InstaShop DMCC, a UAE corporation, for use on ‘online ordering services; price comparison services; import-export agency services; compilation of information into computer databases; providing commercial information and advice for consumers in the choice of products and services; retail services and wholesale services for foods and beverages, clothing, footwear, bags, cosmetics, and others in class 35 and ‘car transport; truck transport; packaging of goods; freight brokerage; delivery of goods; warehousing; rental of warehouse space and others’ in class 39 on December 5, 2019.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a likelihood of confusion with the famous mark “Insta”, known as an abbreviation of “Instagram” in connection with application software for posting and sharing images and videos, online social networking services, advertising, and publicity services based on Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xv) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark that is likely to cause confusion with other business entities’ well-known goods or services.

The applicant filed an appeal on September 16, 2021, and argued the unlikelihood of confusion with Instagram.


JPO decision

The JPO assessed the term “InstaShop” can be a prominent portion of the applied mark and play a role in source indicator per se, but it shall be dissimilar to the “Insta” mark from visual, phonetical points of view. Even if the concepts are not comparable, by taking into global consideration the impression, memory, and association that respective mark gives to consumers and traders, the Board has a reason to believe that both marks are distinctively dissimilar.

Being that the applied mark contains figurative elements and other words “Convenience delivered”. Due to the difference, the applied mark as a whole has a low degree of similarity to the “Insta” mark.

Besides, the Board does not find the services in question have a close association with goods and services of Instagram in view of purpose, business field.

Even if the “Insta” mark has acquired a certain degree of reputation and popularity mainly among young consumers in their teens and twenties, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers are likely to associate and confuse a source of the services in question bearing the applied mark with Instagram because of a low degree of similarity of marks and relatedness with respective goods and services.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to disaffirm the examiner’s rejection and grant registration of the applied mark.

Olympic Lose Trademark Race with Olimple

In a trademark opposition disputing the similarity and the likelihood of confusion between “Olympic” and “Olimple”, the JPO did not side with the IOC (International Olympic Committee).

[Opposition case no. 2021-900173]


Olimple

The opposed mark, consisting of the term “Olimple” written in the alphabet and the Japanese katakana character (see below), was applied with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) on January 28, 2020, for use on facial skin care gel, cosmetics, soaps, and other goods in class 3 by Olimple Co., Ltd.

The JPO granted protection on February 2, 2021, and published for opposition on March 9, 2021.

The applicant promotes medicated skin care gel for men bearing the Olimple mark.

Image credit: olimple.jp

Opposition by IOC

Opponent, IOC claimed the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vi), (vii), (xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier International Registration no. 1128501 for wordmark “OLYMPIC” covering various goods and services in class 3 and other classes.

IOC argued a close resemblance between “OLYMPIC” and “Olimple” by stating:

  1. Both marks share four of the seven letters. Besides, the two letters at the end of the word, “le” and “IC” looks similar.
  2. The third letters “I” and “Y” of both marks are pronounced as “li” accompanied by the second letter “L”.
  3. Being that consumers are accustomed to several terms with a prefix of “OLYMP”, e.g., “OLYMPISM”, “OLYMPIAN” in connection with “OLYMPIC”, they will see the literal element “Olimp” as a dominant portion of the opposed mark.
  4. If so, relevant consumers are likely to confuse the opposed mark with “OLYMPIC” when used on goods in question.

JPO decision

The JPO did not question the famousness of the OLYMPIC mark as a source indicator of the IOC. However, the Opposition Board negated the similarity between “Olimple” and “OLYMPIC” on the following grounds.

  1. The term “Olimple” shall be deemed as a coined word because it is not a word that appeared in a language dictionary and does not give rise to any specific meaning in relation to the goods in question.
  2. There is a remarkable difference in the presence or absence of Japanese katakana characters. In addition to the difference between upper- and lower-case letters after the second letter, there are distinctions in the third letter “i” and “Y”, the sixth letter “l” and “I”, and the letters “e” and “C” at the end. In the configuration of the relatively short seven-letter alphabet, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable by appearance.
  3. Phonetically, both marks are unlikely to cause confusion as a whole because of a clear difference in the fourth and fifth sounds.
  4. It is obvious that both marks are dissimilar in concept.

The Board did not find a reason to believe relevant consumers would misconceive the source of the opposed mark merely because of close attention to the literal portion of “OLYMP” and “Olimp”, and its similarity.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations and decided on July 13, 2022, that the opposed mark shall remain valid as the status quo.

GUCCI Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition

On July 12, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition claimed by Italian fashion house Gucci against Japan Trademark Registration no. 6384970 for the mark “CUGGL” with a hand-painted line in pink by finding less likelihood of confusion with famous fashion brand “GUCCI”.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900284]

CUGGL

Opposed mark, consisting of the term “CUGGL” with a hand-painted line in pink, was applied for use on clothing, footwear, headwear, and apparel in class 25 by an individual on October 6, 2020.

The JPO granted protection of the opposed mark and published it for opposition on May 25, 2021.


Opposition by GUCCI

Italian high-end luxury fashion house, GUCCI filed an opposition with the JPO on July 26, 2021, and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xv), and (xix) of the Trademark Law due to similarity and likelihood of confusion with famous fashion brand “GUCCI”.

GUCCI claimed the opposed mark was sought with malicious intention to free-ride goodwill and reputation in a manner of hiding the lower part of the term “CUGGL” by a pink painted line to the extent consumers could recognize it as if “GUCCI”. In fact, the registrant promotes T-shirts bearing the opposed mark with the most part of the term hidden.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted a remarkable degree of popularity and reputation of the opponent’s “GUCCI” mark.

In the meantime, the Board did not find a resemblance between “GUCCI” and “CUGGL” from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view. Due to a low degree of similarity of the mark, the Board had no reason to believe that relevant consumers would misconceive a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark from GUCCI or any entity systematically or economically connected to the opponent.

Assuming a low degree of similarity of the mark and less likelihood of confusion, the Board can’t find a reasonable ground to admit the applicant had a malicious intention to free-ride goodwill and reputation of GUCCI and do harm to the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations and decided the opposed mark was valid.

Does “GRILL SWISS” mislead quality when used on non-Swiss confectionary?

The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided Trademark Registration no. 6372876 for the “GRILL Swiss” mark would be unlikely to mislead consumers as to the quality of goods in class 30 even when used on non-Swiss confectionary.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900258, Gazette issue date: July 29, 2022]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark, outlined letters of “GRILL Swiss” on a red background, was applied for use on various goods and services in classes 29, 30, and 43 without any geographical restriction of the origin of respective goods and services on April 9, 2019, by Ginza Grill.

The opposed mark has been used on a Western food restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo since 1947.

The JPO granted protection of the mark and published for opposition on April 27, 2021.


Opposition by Choco Swiss

Choco Swiss filed an opposition against the “GRILL Swiss” mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xvi) of the Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xvi) is a provision to prohibit the registration of a trademark that is likely to mislead as to the quality of the goods or services.

The Trademark Examination Guideline (TEG) provides an example that the “SWISSTEX” mark for use on watches shall be unregistrable based on the article. It should be noted that the mark can be registered in the event that the goods are amended to Swiss-made watches.

Opponents claimed the opposed mark “GRILL Swiss” caused a misunderstanding of the quality of following goods in class 30 when used on non-Swiss foods.

Aromatic preparations for food, not from essential oils; Tea; Coffee [roasted, powdered, granulated, or in drinks]; Prepared coffee and coffee-based beverages; Cocoa [roasted, powdered, granulated, or in drinks]; Prepared cocoa and cocoa-based beverages; Ice; Confectionery; Bread and buns; Sandwiches; Steamed buns stuffed with minced meat [Chuka-manjuh]; Hamburgers [sandwiches]; Pizzas; Hot dog sandwiches; Meat pies; Seasonings [other than spices]; Spices; Unroasted coffee beans; Cereal preparations; Chocolate spread; Chinese stuffed dumplings [Gyoza, cooked]; Chinese steamed dumplings [Shumai, cooked]; Sushi; Fried balls of batter mix with small pieces of octopus [Takoyaki]; Boxed lunches consisting of rice, with added meat, fish or vegetables; Ravioli; Cooked rice; Cooked curry rice; Cooked curry rice with fried pork, rice with hashed meat; omelet with a filling of ketchup‐seasoned fried rice; Instant confectionery mixes; Pasta sauce; Husked rice; Husked oats; Husked barley; Gluten for food; Flour.

Opponents argued the opposed mark uses the word “Swiss” in a prominent manner, which indicates Switzerland. Besides, the white-outlined letters on a red background give consumers an impression of Switzerland because of the same color as the Swiss flag. Therefore, if the opposed mark is used on non-Swiss foods including Swiss confectionary, a famous origin of chocolate, relevant consumers would inevitably misunderstand as if the goods bearing the opposed mark were originally manufactured and sold in Switzerland.


JPO Decision

The Opposition Board found both words “GRILL” and “Swiss” are less distinctive as a source indicator in relation to the goods in question equivalently. Being that the term “GRILL Swiss” would not give rise to any specific meaning, the Board held the literal element of the opposed mark is a coined word. If so, it is unlikely that relevant consumers consider the word “SwiSS” of the opposed mark as an indication to represent a specific quality of the goods including confectionery.

Based on the above findings, the Board decided the opposed mark contains a coined word within the red device and it would not represent the quality (place of production, place of sale, etc.) of the goods in question. If so, the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xvi) and remains valid as the status quo.

PUMA wins opposition over Formstrip mark

The Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with PUMA SE in trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6269999 for the stripe device by finding a likelihood of confusion with PUMA’s iconic “Formstrip”.

[Opposition case no. 2020-900248, decision date: June 21, 2022]

Opposed mark

The opposed mark (see below right) was filed with the JPO in the name of Strato Trading Group Inc, a US company, for use on footwear, sports shoes, headwear, trousers, pants, bottoms, jackets, tops, and shirts in class 25 on July 29, 2019.

The JPO examiner did not issue any office action and granted protection of the opposed mark on June 16, 2020 (TM Reg no. 6269999). The opposed mark was published for opposition on August 4, 2020.


PUMA Formstrip

MARKS IP LAW FIRM, as a representative of PUMA SA, filed an opposition against the opposed mark on October 1, 2020, and argued the mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for famous Formstrip mark (see above left) in class 25.

In 1958 PUMA trademarked their “Formstrip” – an ever-expanding band of color that extended from the heel of the shoe, before diving into the soles along the sides. This particular shape was originally created to stabilize the foot inside the shoe, is now a typical PUMA trademark found on almost all PUMA shoes, and is used as a design element on our apparel products.


JPO Decision

By taking into consideration the produced evidence and substantial use of the cited mark on PUMA shoes that have annual sales exceeded JP15billion-yen and held a 4% market share in Japan for long years, the Opposition Board found “the Formstrip mark is highly distinctive and has acquired a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity as a source indicator of PUMA shoes among relevant consumers at the time of filing and registration of the opposed mark.

Besides, the Board found a high degree of similarity of marks by stating that both marks have the similar configuration of gradually becoming narrower and narrower with a gentle curve from a wide width. Although there are some differences in detail, such as the slight curvature at the narrow end, the opposed mark can be conceived of as a reversed version of the Formstrip.

In view of a close association between the goods in question and PUMA’s business, attention to be paid by relevant consumers, and the totality of circumstances and transactions in the relevant industry, the Board has a reasonable ground to believe that relevant consumers and traders are likely to confuse the source of the goods bearing the opposed mark from PUMA or an entity economically or systematically connected with PUMA.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to cancel the opposed mark entirely in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Trademark dispute: RIVER vs river

In a recent decision, the JPO Appeal Board found TM Application no. 2021-5278 for the stylized “river” mark is dissimilar to earlier TM Reg no. 5704488 for the mark “RIVER” with design irrespective of designating the same consulting service in class 35.
[Appeal case no. 2021-17274, decision date: June 22, 2022]


TM Application 2021-5278

The dispute mark consists of the stylized word “river” depicted with the figurative element (see below right). The mark was filed in the name of Cultive, Inc for use in advertising and publicity services, business management analysis, or business consultancy service in class 35 on January 19, 2021.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a conflict with earlier TM Reg no. 5704488 for the mark “RIVER” with a design (see above left) based on Article 4(1)(x) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark that is deemed identical with, or similar to, an earlier registered mark.

The applicant filed an appeal on December 15, 2021, and argued dissimilarity of the mark.


JPO decision

Astonishingly, the JPO Appeal Board found “By virtue of figurative elements, the disputed mark as a whole gives rise to an impression of distinctive and unified design that evokes the image of flowing water and green leaves. Furthermore, the color composition also gives the impression that the mark is designed to evoke the image of flowing water and green leaves. If so, even though the mark may give rise to a sound and meaning of “river”, it is reasonable to believe that the source of the services is identified based on the impression created by the distinctive appearance of the mark rather than its sound and concept in the course of transactions.”

Likewise, the Board found “being that the literal portion “RIVER” would not be deemed a prominent portion of the cited mark, even if the cited mark can give rise to a sound and meaning of “RIVER”, it is reasonable to consider that relevant consumers distinguish the source of the services bearing the cited mark by means of overall impression, rather than it’s sound and concept.

Based on the above findings, the Board concluded “it is obvious that there is a remarkable difference in the appearance of both marks. Even if the disputed mark and the cited mark are both pronounced “RIVER” and mean “river”, the similarity in sound and concept shall not outweigh the distinctiveness caused by a remarkable difference in appearance. Therefore, the disputed mark is unlikely to cause confusion and dissimilar to the cited mark.”

Consequently, the Board decided to disaffirm the examiner’s rejection and grant protection of the disputed mark.