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.

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.

Adidas Unsuccessful in Opposition over BOOST mark

On May 18, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Adidas AG against Trademark Reg no. 6383132 for the wordmark “G-BOOST” by finding dissimilarity and unlikelihood of confusion with Adidas “BOOST”.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900273]

G-BOOST

UNI WORLD Co., Ltd. filed wordmark “G-BOOST” in standard character for use on ‘gloves for protection against accidents; clothing for protection against accidents; protective industrial shoes; dust masks’ in class 9 and ‘clothing; footwear; gloves; thermal gloves; sports shoes; sportswear; socks’ in class 25 on March 30, 2020.

The applicant promotes worker gloves bearing the mark “G-BOOST.”

The JPO granted protection of the mark on March 30, 2021, and published for opposition on May 25, 2021.


Opposition by Adidas

On July 14, 2021, Adidas AG filed an opposition and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (x), (xi), and 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law due to a conflict with earlier trademark registrations pertinent to Adidas BOOST shoes, namely, TM Reg nos. 5212257 “BOOST” and 5941352 “ULTRABOOST” on shoes and sports shoes in class 25.

Allegedly, Adidas introduced Boost in 2013 as its revolutionary cushioning system, which provided the highest energy return in any running sneaker. The technology was designed to provide runners with soft cushioning and long-lasting energy that more rigid sneakers couldn’t.

Adidas argued the opposed mark “G-BOOST” is confusingly similar to “BOOST” because the term “BOOST” shall be a prominent portion of the opposed mark given an alphabetical letter “G” perse lacks distinctiveness in relation to the goods in question. Besides, “BOOST” has become famous as a source indicator of Adidas in relation to running shoes. If so, relevant consumers are likely to confuse the source of goods bearing the opposed mark with Adidas.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board did not admit a certain degree of reputation and popularity of the BOOST mark as a source indicator of Adidas running shoes among relevant consumers in Japan by stating that the opponent failed to produce sufficient evidence to disclose sales figures, market share, and advertising expenditures, media space and time of the goods bearing the BOOST mark even though the opponent produced evidence to demonstrate marketing campaign for the BOOST shoes in Japan.

In addition, the Board compared “G-BOOST” with “BOOST” as a whole and negated the similarity of the marks because of a clear distinction in appearance and sound.

Given the low degree of similarity of the mark and unproved famousness of the opponent mark, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers would confuse a source of the goods bearing the opposed mark with Adidas.

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

Failed Opposition against “Zara Sube Mist” by ZARA

On March 25, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Industria de Diseño Textil, SA (INDITEX), owner of the fashion brand “ZARA” against trademark registration no. 6357258 for word mark “Zara Sube Mist” in class 3 by finding dissimilarity to and less likelihood of confusion with “ZARA”.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900193]

Zara Sube Mist

The opposed mark, consisting of three words, “Zara”, “Sube”, and “Mist” in standard character, was applied for registration by IBI Inc. to be used on cosmetics in class 3 on January 30, 2020.

The JPO granted protection on February 16, 2021, and published for opposition on March 23, 2021.

The applicant is using the opposed mark on skin lotions. Click here.

It should be noted “zara zara” is a usual term to represent the condition of ‘rough skin’ in Japanese. Likewise, “sube sube” is often used to represent the condition of ‘smooth skin’. Because of it, we would conceive of skin conditions from the term “Zara Sube.”


Opposition by Inditex

Opponent, INDITEX, one of the world’s largest fashion retailers and owner of the fashion brand “ZARA”, claimed the opposed mark “Zara Sube Mist” shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier IR no. 973064 for word mark “ZARA” in relation with cosmetics of class 3.

INDITEX argued, that given “ZARA” has acquired a remarkable reputation, relevant consumers of the goods in question are likely to see the literal element “Zara” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark and thus confuse or misconceive the opposed mark with “ZARA”.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted that “ZARA” has become famous among relevant consumers and traders as a source indicator of the opponent in connection with clothing.

In the meantime, the Board questioned if the opponent mark “ZARA” has acquired a certain degree of reputation and popularity in relation to cosmetics from the produced evidence.

The Board found the consumers would see the opposed mark in its entirety due to a tight combination of three words and a non-redundant sound of ‘zara-sube-mist’. Being that “ZARA” failed to prove a certain degree of reputation and popularity as a source indicator of cosmetics, the Board has a reason to believe that relevant consumers would not consider the term “Zara” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark. If so, the opposed mark just gives rise to a pronunciation of ‘zara-sube-mist’ and no specific meaning.

Based on the above findings, the Board held “Zara Sube Mist” and “ZARA” are obviously dissimilar from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view.

If so, the opposed mark “Zara Sube Mist” is unlikely to cause confusion with “ZARA” by virtue of a low degree of similarity and remote association between apparel and cosmetics even though “ZARA” has been famous for apparel brand and coined word.

In a conclusion, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations of INDITEX and allowed “Zara Sube Mist” to survive.

Trademark Parody case: Champion Defeated by Nyanpion

On March 16, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by HBI Branded Apparel Enterprises, LLC against TM Reg no. 6368388 for the mark “Nyanpion” with a device due to dissimilarity to and the unlikelihood of confusion with the famous apparel brand “Champion.”

[Opposition case no. 2021-900230]

Opposed mark

A Japanese individual applied a composite mark consisting of a stylized word “Nyanpion” and a cat device (see below) for use on apparel, headgear, footwear, sports shoes, and sportswear in class 25 with the JPO on August 25, 2020.

The JPO examiner granted protection of the opposed mark on January 29, 2021, and published for opposition on April 13, 2021.

T-shirts, sweats, hoodies, and tote bags bearing the Nyanpion mark have been promoted for sale with a catchword of “Champion” parody.

I should note that “Nyan” is the sound cats make in Japan. Because of it, “Nyanpion” easily reminds us of a combination of cat sounds and “Champion”.


Opposition by Champion

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, HBI Branded Apparel Enterprises, LLC filed an opposition against the opposed mark on June 14, 2021.

HBI argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (x), (xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the Champion brand in relation to apparels and a high degree of similarity between the opposed mark and its owned trademark registrations (see below) to the extent that relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of the goods in question bearing the opposed mark with “Champion”.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted that the “Champion” mark has acquired a high degree of reputation as a result of substantial use in Japan for more than four decades and become famous as a source indicator of the opponent.

In the meantime, the Board negated the similarity between the marks by stating that:

From the appearance, the difference in the prefix of literal elements, “Nyanpion” and “Champion” would suffice for relevant consumers to distinguish them. The figurative element of the opposed mark represents a cat’s face. The opponent device mark gives rise to an impression of a letter “C”. If so, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable in appearance.

Phonetically, “Nyanpion” is easily distinguishable from “Champion” because of the difference in the first sound given both marks just consist of five sounds respectively.

Conceptually, the opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. Meanwhile, the opponent mark has a meaning of someone or something, especially a person or animal, that has beaten all other competitors in competition and ‘famous apparel brand.’ If so, both marks are dissimilar in concept.

By virtue of a low degree of similarity, the Board found relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse or associate the source of the goods bearing the “Nyanpion” mark with “Champion” and any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

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

Failed trademark opposition by HERMES against HAIRMES

On December 1, 2021, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Hermes International against TM Reg no. 6275593 for the wordmark “HAIRMES” due to dissimilarity to and the unlikelihood of confusion with the famous fashion brand “HERMES”.
[Opposition case no. 2020-900266]


Opposed mark

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.

The JPO examiner granted protection of the opposed mark on July 28, 2020, and published for opposition on August 18, 2020.

Apparently, Dog Diggin Designs promotes parody dog toys & dog beds, and other pet supplies.

https://www.dogdiggindesigns.com/

Opposition by Hermes

To oppose against registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Hermes International filed an opposition against the opposed mark on October 15, 2020.

Hermes argued the opposed 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.


JPO decision


The JPO Opposition Board admitted “HERMES” has been widely recognized as a luxury fashion brand and source indicator of Hermes International.

In the meantime, the Board negated similarity between the marks by stating that:

From the appearance, the difference of “AI” and “E” in the middle of a respective word would suffice for relevant consumers to distinguish them.
Phonetically, “HERMES” is easily distinguishable from “HAIRMES” because of the difference in the first and second given both marks just consist of four sounds respectively.
Conceptually, the opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. Meanwhile, “HERMES” has a meaning of a Greek god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel, and theft who serves as herald and messenger of the other gods and ‘luxury fashion brand.’ If so, both marks give rise to a different impression in the mind of relevant consumers.

Based on a low degree of similarity between the marks, the Board denied a likelihood of confusion as well.

As to Hermes’ allegation that Dog Diggin Designs must have an unjustified intention to free-ride the reputation of HERMES by promoting pet supplies with a similar package design and color to Hermes, the Board found irrelevant to the case since the opposed mark does not contain such figurative element. Ironically, the opposed mark “HAIRMES” rather serves to prevent confusion even if used on similar package design and color, the Board held.

https://www.dogdiggindesigns.com/

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

GAP Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition against “Gapace”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by the US apparel company, Gap (ITM) Incorporated, against TM Reg no. 6304400 for wordmark “Gapace” to be used on apparel in class 25 by finding dissimilarity to and the unlikelihood of confusion with “GAP.”

[Opposition case no. 2020-900346, Gazette issued date: December 24, 2021]

Opposed mark

The wordmark “Gapace” was filed by a Chinese individual for use on various goods and apparel belonging to class 25 with the JPO on October 15, 2019 (TM App no. 2019-132880).

The JPO admitted registration on October 15, 2020, and published for opposition on November 4, 2020.


Opposition by GAP

To oppose against registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Gap (ITM) Inc. filed an opposition against the opposed mark on December 24, 2020.

GAP argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the GAP mark as a source indicator of US apparel giant and a high degree of similarity between the opposed mark “Gapace” and the opponent’s famous earlier registered mark “GAP.”

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.

Article 4(1)(xv) provides that a mark shall not be registered where it is likely to cause confusion with other business entities ’ well-known goods or services.

Article 4(1)(xix) prohibits registering a trademark that is identical with, or similar to, another entity’s famous mark, if such trademark is aimed for unfair purposes, e.g. gaining unfair profits, or causing damage to the entity.


JPO Decision

To my surprise, the JPO Opposition Board denied a substantial degree of reputation and popularity of the opponent trademark “GAP” in connection with apparel by stating that the produced evidence failed to demonstrate sales amount and its market share in Japan. A mere reference to the fact that the opponent has launched an apparel business in Japan since 1994 and promoted apparel bearing the GAP mark for sale at their 150 stores nationwide is insufficient. Likewise, a fact that GAP was ranked 4th in the Top 10 clothing retailers in the world in 2021 is not persuasive to find a high degree of popularity among relevant consumers in foreign countries at the time of both filling the opposed mark and registration.

In assessing the similarity of the mark, the Board held “GAP” and “Gapace” are totally dissimilar from visual and phonetical points of view. Conceptually, both marks are not similar because the opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. In the meantime, the opponent mark “GAP” has a meaning of ‘separation in space.’

Given the opponent mark “GAP” was not proven to have become famous in relation to the goods in question, the Board found it is unlikely that relevant consumers would conceive the literal element of “Gap” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark when used on apparels.

Based on the foregoing, the Board had no reasonable ground to believe the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv), and (xix), and decided to dismiss the entire opposition accordingly.

Samsung Failed in TM Opposition against “Funky Galaxy”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, against TM Reg no. 6263685 for wordmark “Funky Galaxy” by stating the opposed mark would not cause confusion with Samsung “Galaxy” even when used on smartphones.

[Opposition case no. 2020-900229, Gazette issued date: November 11, 2021]

Opposed mark

On April 12, 2019, KING Entertainment Co., Ltd. applied for registration of wordmark “Funky Galaxy” in standard character for use on goods and services in classes 9, 16, 35, and 41. The goods in class 9 covers ‘telecommunication machines and apparatus; personal digital assistants; smartphones; electronic machines, and apparatus and their parts.’

JPO granted protection of the “Funky Galaxy” mark and published for opposition on July 14, 2020.


Opposition by Samsung

On September 11, 2020, Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker famous for Galaxy series mobiles, filed an opposition and claimed the Opposed mark shall be canceled in relation to goods and services in class 9, 35, and 41 in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (x), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law by citing its own senior TM Reg nos. 4498554 “Galaxy”, IR1335923 “GALAXY STUDIO”, and 6309820 “Galaxy Harajuku”.

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

Samsung argued the Opposed mark shall cause confusion with Samsung “Galaxy” especially when used on smartphones and related goods and services, given a remarkable reputation of “Galaxy” holding 3rd market share (7.4% in 2018, 8.0% in 2019, 9,0% in 2020) in Japan and the close resemblance between “Galaxy” and “Funky Galaxy”.


JPO Decision

The Opposition Board did not question a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity of trademark “Galaxy” as a source indicator of the opponent smartphones.

In the meantime, the Board did not consider the term “Galaxy” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark from visual and conceptual points of view. If so, the opposed mark shall be assessed in its entirety.

In the assessment of similarity of the mark, the Board found “Funky Galaxy” is visually and phonetically distinguishable from “Galaxy” due to the presence of “Funky.” From concept, both marks are less similar because the opposed mark does not give rise to a specific meaning and the opponent mark “Galaxy” means an extremely large group of stars and planets. Both marks have a low degree of similarity accordingly.

Even though “Galaxy” has been well-known as a source indicator of Samsung smartphones, and the goods and services in question are closely associated with smartphones, given a low degree of similarity between “Funky Galaxy” and “Galaxy”, the Board has a reasonable ground to believe that relevant consumers would not confuse a source of goods and services bearing the opposed mark “Funky Galaxy” with Samsung and any business entity economically or systematically connected with the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided the allegations are groundless and the Opposed mark shall remain valid as the status quo.

Failed Opposition by Longines over Winged Hourglass logo mark

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by Swiss luxury watchmaker, Longines Watch Co., Francillon Ltd., against Japanese trademark registration no. 6165986 by finding dissimilarity to Longine winged hourglass logo.
[Opposition case no. 2019-900301, Gazette issued date: August 27, 2021]


Opposed mark

Opposed mark, consisting of a winged device (see below right), was filed by a Chinese undertaking on July 11, 2018, for use on jewelry, clocks, watches, chronometers, and other goods in class 14.

The JPO admitted registration of the opposed mark on July 26, 2019, and published for post-grant opposition on August 20, 2019.


Opposition by Longines

To oppose against registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Compagnie des Montres Longines, Francillon S.A. filed an opposition on October 18, 2019.

In the opposition brief, Longines asserted the opposed mark shall be retroactively canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (x), (xi), and (xix) of Japan Trademark Law due to a resemblance to Longine’s famed winged hourglass logo (see above left).

Article 4(1)(vii) prohibits any mark likely to cause damage to public order or morality from registration.

Article 4(1)(x) prohibits registering a trademark that is identical with, or similar to, other entity’s well-known mark over goods or services closely related to the entity’s business.

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

Article 4(1)(xix) prohibits registering a mark that is identical with, or similar to, another entity’s famous mark, with an aim to gain unfair profits, or cause damage to the entity, even if goods or services sought for registration are unrelated to the entity’s business.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board did admit a certain degree of the reputation of wordmark “LONGINES” from the produced evidence. In the meantime, the Board questioned if the winged hourglass logo per se has acquired a similar degree of reputation as a source indicator of the opponent’s watches by stating that the logo has been always used in conjunction with or adjacent to the LONGINES mark.

Besides, the Board considered both marks dissimilar as a whole from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view. The cited mark consists of an hourglass and straight wings. The opposed mark consists of geometrical figures conceived as a human body and spread wing. Taking account of distinctions in appearance, the Board has reasonable ground to believe that relevant consumers would be unlikely to confuse a source of the opposed mark with Longines when used on the goods in question.

Due to a low degree of similarity and popularity, the Board did not find a reasonable doubt that the opposed mark was sought for registration with an aim to obtain unfair profits from Longines and disorder public interest and morality from the totality of the circumstances.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to dismiss the opposition entirely and found opposed mark shall not be canceled under Article 4(1)(vii), (x), (xi), and (xix).

BEYOND MEAT defeats “Beyond Meat Burger”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Beyond Meat Inc. and canceled TM Reg no. 6197193 for wordmark “Beyond Meat Burger” by free-riding on the business reputation of “BEYOND MEAT”.

[Opposition case no. 2020-900023, Gazette issued date: July 30, 2021]

Beyond Meat Burger

Opposed mark, consisting of a wordmark “Beyond Meat Burger” written in a Japanese katakana character (see below), was filed by a Japanese individual on July 23, 2018, for use on ‘meat products’ in class 29 and ‘clothing’ in class 25.

Subsequently, the applicant deleted the designated goods in class 29.

The mark was registered on November 15, 2019, and published for opposition on December 10, 2019.


BEYOND MEAT

Beyond Meat Inc., a US food processing company that specializes in providing plant-based meat, filed an opposition against the “Beyond Meat Burger” mark with the JPO on January 24, 2020, before the lapse of a two-month statutory period for the opposition.

In the opposition brief, Beyond Meat argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xix) prohibits registering a trademark that is identical with, or similar to, another entity’s famous mark, if such trademark is aimed for unfair purposes, e.g. gaining unfair profits, or causing damage to the entity.

It is interpreted that the “famous mark” under the article does not require a high reputation among Japanese consumers. If domestic consumers recognize such a reputation in foreign countries, it will suffice.

Beyond Meat alleged that the “BEYOND MEAT” mark has been well known for plant-based meat substitutes by the opponent to meat distributors as well as US consumers (It should be noted that Beyond Meat has yet to launch the business in Japan as of now). It is obvious that the opposed mark is confusingly similar to “BEYOND MEAT”. Presumably, the opposed party must have filed the opposed mark with a fraudulent intention to prevent registration of the “BEYOND MEAT” mark in Japan and gain unjust enrichment by doing so.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted that the “BEYOND MEAT” mark has acquired a remarkable degree of reputation among US consumers as a source indicator of plant-based meat substitutes by Beyond Meat Inc. even before the application date of the opposed mark

The Board assessed the opposed mark is confusingly similar to “BEYOND MEAT”. Relevant consumers with an ordinary care would see the term “Beyond Meat” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark because the consumers get familiar with the English word “Burger.”

A fact that the opposed party initially designated ‘meat products’ implies the applicant’s intention to use the opposed mark on the goods that are closely associated with meat substitutes. If so, the Board had a reasonable ground to believe the opposed mark was filed with an intention to take advantage of goodwill and business reputation associated with Beyond Meat’s tradename and trademark.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO decided to retroactively cancel the opposed mark “Beyond Meat Burger” in contravention of Article 4(1)(xix).