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.

Canada Goose Failed Trademark Opposition Over Roundel Logo

On May 11, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Canada Goose International AG against TM Reg no. 6367416 for a composite mark consisting of red, white, and blue roundel logo and literal elements by finding dissimilarity to and the unlikelihood of confusion with Canada Goose roundel logo.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900228]

Opposed mark

The opposed mark consists of a silhouette of an island or region in white placed right at the center of the emblem, a navy field with twelve red lines radiating from the center, and a wide rounded white frame with the text “KITAKYU GOODS” (top) and “NORTH NINE PROGRAM” (bottom) and five five-pointed-start-like devices (on each side of the frame) in red (see below left).

A Japanese business entity applied for use on seals and stickers [stationery] in class 16 and ornamental adhesive patches for jackets and brassards in class 26 with the JPO on June 29, 2020.

The JPO examiner granted protection of the opposed mark on March 3, 2021, and published for opposition on April 13, 2021.


Opposition by Canada Goose

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Canada Goose International AG filed an opposition against the opposed mark on June 14, 2021.

Canada Goose argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of earlier trademark registrations for the Canada Goose Roundel Logo (see above right) in relation to apparels and a close resemblance between the opposed mark and the opponent mark by using “confusingly similar” red, white, and blue logo patch.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board did not find a high degree of reputation and popularity of the Canada Goose Roundel Logo as a source indicator of the opponent among relevant consumers in Japan by stating that the opponent failed to produce evidence pertinent to the sales and advertisement of goods bearing the opponent logo in Japan even though the Canada Goose ranked fourth for a must-buy down jacket in 2021.

From the totality of the evidence, the Board had no choice but to question if the opponent mark has become famous among relevant consumers in Japan as well as Canada, and other countries.

Besides, the Board negated similarity between the marks by virtue of visual distinctions caused by (i) a land-like device depicted at the center and (ii) text and devices placed in the rounded frame. Due to the distinction, both marks give rise to a dissimilar sound. Conceptually, both marks are incomparable since either mark does not have any specific meaning.

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 Canada Goose.

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

Chrysler loses trademark opposition against “JEEPER” in Japan

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US) LLC against TM Reg no. 6317667 for the wordmark “Jeeper” to be used on hand tools in class 8 by finding the unlikelihood of confusion with “JEEP” vehicles.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900035, Gazette issued date: April 28, 2022]

Opposed mark

The wordmark “Jeeper” was filed by a Japanese individual for use on various hand tools in class 8 with the JPO on January 27, 2020 (TM App no. 2020-8907).

The JPO admitted registration on November 17, 2020, and published for opposition on December 8, 2020.


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 January 26, 2021.

FCA argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the 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 “Jeeper” and the opponent’s famous earlier registered mark “JEEP.”

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.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted a certain degree of reputation and popularity of the opponent trademark “JEEP” in connection with automobiles. However, the Board questioned if relevant consumers of hand tools have the same perception.

In assessing the similarity of the mark, the Board held that “Jeeper” and “JEEP” are less likely to cause confusion from visual and phonetical points of view. Conceptually, both marks are distinctively dissimilar because the opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. In the meantime, the opponent mark “JEEP” has a meaning of ‘Jeep brand 4WD vehicles.’

Given that “JEEP” has not become famous in relation to the hand tools in question, the Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers would associate the goods bearing the mark “Jeeper” with the opponent or any business entity systematically or economically connected with Chrysler in view of a low degree of similarity between the marks.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv), and decided to dismiss the entire opposition.

Trademark Opposition or Invalidation, Which Is Useful in Japan?

Opposition

A trademark opposition is a proceeding in which a third party can oppose a newly registered trademark under Article 43bis of the Japan Trademark Law. For example, once a trademark is newly registered by JPO, this fact is published in the Official Gazette of Trade Marks immediately after it is actually registered. This kicks off a two (2) month period known as the ‘opposition period’ during which other parties are then given an opportunity to ‘oppose’ the registration of the trademark.


Invalidation

Trademark invalidation is an inter-partes proceeding in which a party has a legal interest in the result that can null a trademark registration under Article 46 of the Japan Trademark Law. If the registration is less than five years old, the party challenging the trademark rights can rely on any ground that could have prevented registration initially.


Comparison

Conflict with earlier registration (similarity of mark and goods/service), a likelihood of confusion with famous mark, and descriptiveness are the most common grounds asserted both in opposition and invalidation action.

 Trademark OppositionTrademark Invalidation
Statute of limitations2 months from the publication date5 years from the registration date
Official feeJPY11,000 for 1 class
JPY19,000 for 2 classes
JPY55,000 for 1 class
JPY95,000 for 2 classes
StandingLegal interest is not requiredLegal interest is required
CounterargumentNo obligation to counterargue unless the JPO notifies a cancellation ground to a registrant.Mandatory for a registrant to counterargue, otherwise it may adversely affect.
Pendency period7.9 months11.5 months
Appeal to decisionOnly the registrant can file an appeal against an unfavorable decisionEither party can file an appeal against the JPO decision

Which action to take?

From a cost-saving point of view, opposition undoubtedly looks more attractive than invalidation, however, when you look at the success rate of opposition (see below table), it may change your mind. There has been a big gap in the success rate between opposition and invalidation for years.

YearThe success rate of the OppositionThe success rate of Invalidation
201513%32%
201616%42%
201711%33%
201811%34%
201911%56%
202011%35%

Therefore, in terms of probability theory, invalidation action is by far preferable to opposition for the purpose of removing trademark registration in Japan.

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.

Lacoste Prevails in Trademark Parody Case

On February 18, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided in favor of Lacoste and canceled Japanese TM Registration No. 6289888 for a flipped crocodile device mark in class 25 due to a likelihood of confusion with the famous crocodile logo of Lacoste.

[Opposition case no. 2020-900312, Decision date: February 18, 2022]

Opposed mark

The opposed mark, consisting of flipped crocodile device and term “OCOSITE” (see below), was filed by a Japanese individual for use on clothing, footwear, headgear, sports shoes, and sportswear in class 25 on March 17, 2020.

T-shirts printing the opposed mark are promoted for sale with a catchphrase of “funny parody T-shirt.” As the term, “OCOSITE” means ‘wake me up, get me up’ in Japanese, the opposed mark gives rise to the meaning of a crocodile struggling to get up.

The opposed mark was registered on September 9, 2020, and published for opposition on September 29, 2020.


Opposition by Lacoste

It was anything but funny to the luxury sportswear brand, Lacoste.

Lacoste filed an opposition on November 27, 2020, within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date.

In the opposition, Lacoste claimed the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law on the grounds that a flipped crocodile device of the opposed mark closely resembles the world-famous Lacoste crocodile logo from its appearance.

Besides, the term “OCOSITE” is depicted in a similar font to “LACOSTE” and five letters “COS” and “TE” among seven letters are identical. Given the close resemblance between crocodile devices and the meaning of “OCOSITE”, relevant consumers at the sight of clothing and sportswear bearing the opposed mark would immediately conceive of the Lacoste crocodile struggling to get up and thus likely to confuse its souse with Lacoste.


JPO decision

The Opposition Board of JPO admitted a substantial degree of reputation and popularity of the Lacoste crocodile logo in relation to clothing, footwear, and sportswear.

The Board found a high degree of similarity between the flipped crocodile of the opposed mark and the Lacoste crocodile. Noticeably, the Board held respective element, namely, the crocodile device and the term “OCOSITE” of the opposed mark shall not be inseparably combined as a whole regardless of close adjacency.

In view of a high degree of reputation and originality of the opponent mark, and close association between the opponent business and the goods in question, the Board has reason to believe relevant consumers with an ordinary care would be likely to confuse the source of goods bearing the opposed mark with Lacoste or any business entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO sided with Lacoste and decided to cancel the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv).

DIOR Successful in Blocking Trademark “zovladior”

On December 28, 2021, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Christian Dior in a trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6227664 for the word mark “zovladior” in classes 3, 5, 9, and 10 by finding a likelihood of confusion with a world-renowned fashion brand “Dior”.
[Opposition case no. 2020-900133]


“zovladior”

The opposed mark, “zovladior” in standard character, was sought for registration by a Japanese company to be used on cosmetics, perfume, soaps, and detergents in class 3, pharmaceutical preparations, dietary supplements, dietary beverages and foods, beverages, and foods for babies in class 5, eyeglasses and goggles, sunglasses in class 9, massage apparatus, esthetic massage apparatus, electric massage apparatus for household purposes in class 10 on January 30, 2019.

The JPO examiner granted protection of the opposed mark on January 30, 2020, and published for opposition on March 10, 2020.


Opposition by Christian Dior

To contend registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Christian Dior Couture filed an opposition on May 8, 2020.

In the opposition, Christian Dior claimed the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii), (xi), (xv), (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law on the grounds that “zovladior” contains the mark “Dior”, an abbreviation of a world-renowned fashion brand “Christian Dior” and the opponent. If so, it is reasonable to consider the term “dior” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark that gives rise to the same sound and concept with the senior registered mark “Dior” owned by the opponent.


JPO decision

The Opposition Board of JPO admitted a substantial degree of reputation and popularity of “Dior” as an abbreviation of “Christian Dior” and the opponent in relation to fashion items including cosmetics, perfumes, watches, bags, women’s dresses, sunglasses.

On the grounds that 4 letters out of 9 are the same as the opponent’s mark “Dior”, the Board found there is a medium level of similarity between “zovladior” and “Dior.”

In view of a high degree of reputation and originality of the opponent mark, and close association between the opponent business and the goods in question, the Board has reason to believe relevant consumers with an ordinary care would conceive of the opponent at the sight of “zovladior” when used on goods in question.

If so, it is likely that the consumers would recognize a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark from Christian Dior Couture or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO sided with the opponent and decided to cancel the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv).

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.