Johnson’s baby vs. JOHANSON bebis

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with Johnson & Johnson in trademark opposition who sought cancellation of TM Reg no. 6559102 for the “JOHANSON bebis” mark due to similarity to or likelihood of confusion with “Johnson’s baby”.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900314, decided on February 22, 2023]

JOHANSON bebis

JOHANSON LIFE Co., Ltd., a Korean company, filed the “JOHANSON bebis” mark (see below) for use on babies’ bottles and nasal aspirators in class 10 with the JPO on June 28, 2021.

Apparently, the company promotes babies’ bottles bearing the applied mark.

The mark was registered by the JPO on May 20, 2022, and published for opposition on May 30, 2022.


Johnson’s baby

Johnson & Johnson, one of the oldest pharmaceutical companies in the US, has owned TM Reg no. 4032368 for the stylized word mark “Johnson’s baby” (see below) on baby bottles, nursing bottles, teats, feeding cups, and cotton swabs in class 10 since 1997.

Johnson & Johnson filed an opposition against the “JOHANSON bebis” mark on August 1, 2022, and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law due to visual and phonetical similarity and the likelihood of confusion between “JOHANSON bebis” and “Johnson’s baby” that has been famous for skin care products for baby when used on designated goods in class 10.


JPO Decision

The Opposition Board pointed out the produced evidence shows substantial use of the “Johnson’s” mark, however, none of them demonstrate actual use of the cited mark. If so, the Board has no reason to believe the cited mark has been well-recognized among relevant consumers in Japan.

As for the similarity of the mark, the Board found there is no risk of confusion between the opposed mark and the cited mark in appearance by means of the presence or absence of the device, and difference in the arrangement, composition, and number of alphabets.

Comparing the sound of “Johanson bebis” with “Johnson’s baby”, they are clearly distinguishable due to their different sound structures, and there is no risk of confusion in sound.  Besides, while the opposed mark does not have any specific concept, the cited mark gives rise to the meaning of “Johnson’s baby,” so there is no likelihood of confusion between the marks in the concept. If so, the opposed mark shall be dissimilar to the cited mark from visual, phonetical, and conceptual points of view.

Assuming that the cited mark has not been widely recognized as a source indicator of Johnson & Johnson and has a low degree of similarity to the opposed mark, it is unlikely that relevant consumers would confuse a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with Johnson & Johnson.

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

Slim Chickens Fails to Secure Trademark in Japan

The JPO dismissed an opposition claimed by Slim Chickens Holdings LLC, a US fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in chicken tenders and wings, against TM Reg no. 6524092 for the wordmark “Slim Chickens” on restaurant services in class 43.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900179, decided on February 16, 2023]

SLIM CHICKENS

Slim Chickens opened in 2003 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, US, with a focus on fresh, delicious food with a southern flair in a fast-casual setting. With more than 190 locations opened and a fanatical following in 30 U.S. states, as well as international locations in the United Kingdom, the eternally cool brand is an emerging national and international franchise leading the “better chicken” segment of fast-casual restaurants with a goal to grow over 600 restaurants over the next decade.


Opposition against TM Reg no. 6524092

Food Revamp Co., Ltd, a Japanese company, filed a trademark application for the word mark “Slim Chickens” in standard character for use on restaurant services in class 43 with the JPO on May 6, 2021.

The JPO admitted registration of the mark (TM Reg no. 6524092) on March 8, 2022, and published for opposition on March 16, 2022.

Slim Chickens Holdings LLC (SCH) filed an opposition with the JPO on May 2, 2022, and argued the mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

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

The JPO Opposition Board did not find a high level of popularity of “Slim Chickens”, a US fast-casual restaurant chain, among relevant consumers in Japan as well as the US and other countries by stating:

It is admitted that SCH opened a restaurant in the U.S. in 2003, and the first Slim Chickens franchise in 2013. SCH restaurant chain was ranked third in the “Best Casual Restaurant” category in 2020. SCH has used the “Slim Chickens” mark on their business and restaurant chain that has been considerably introduced in US magazines and online news sites.

However, SCH did not produce sufficient evidence other than media coverage to suggest their business performance in US and UK.

Therefore, the Board has no reason to believe that the “Slim Chickens” mark has been widely recognized among consumers in the US and other countries as a source indicator of the SCH restaurant chain.

Even if SCH restaurant chain has achieved sales of USD120 million and about 135 stores in the US and 10 stores in the UK, taking account of the total sales (USD10.06 billion) and the number of stores in the US (9,630) of Dunkin’ Donuts, which is introduced on the same coverage with SCH, and 9 mega restaurant chains opens over 1,000 stores in Japan, it is doubtful if “Slim Chickens” has acquired a high level of recognition even among consumers in US and UK.

In Japan, although there are magazines and web pages introducing the “Slim Chickens” restaurant chain, the number of such magazines and web pages is merely 6 from July 2017 to April 2022, and above all, there is no fact that SCH has opened a restaurant in Japan. If so, there is no reason to consider the “Slim Chickens” mark is widely recognized among relevant consumers in Japan.

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

Letter of Protest protects PUMA from Free-rider

The JPO examiner raised her objection on the ground that TM App no. 2022-76159 for the stylized mark “SHIBA” was confusingly similar to the world-famous mark “PUMA” and filed with a malicious intent to harm PUMA as well as public interest.


Opposition vs Letter of Protest

Whenever a brand owner discovers a trademark application by a third party that may cause confusion or detrimental effect on your business, the owner is eager to block its registration by any means.

Opposition is one of the actions universally taken in such cases, however, it should be noted the success rate of opposition has been remarkably low (11% on average in the past six years) in Japan. Besides, the Japan Trademark Law does provide only “post-grant opposition” and the JPO has full discretion in deciding whether to cancel the opposed mark. Assumably, these factors affect the rate getting lower.

In this respect, a “letter of protest” is probably a better option instead.

Any person can use the letter of protest to give the JPO evidence about the registrability of a trademark in a pending application. There is no public data to show how effective the letter works to block the protested trademark, however, in my experience, as a Japanese trademark practitioner for twenty years, more than half of the letters resulted in a rejection of the protested trademark.


Protest to “SHIBA” mark

MARKS IP LAW FIRM, acting on behalf of PUMA SE, sent a letter of protest against TM App no. 2022-76159 for the stylized mark “SHIBA” (see below) in class 25 on November 25, 2022.

In the letter, we argued the protested mark is likely to cause confusion with PUMA SE because of its resemblance to the world-famous sports brand “PUMA”.

On February 17, 2023, the JPO examiner issued an office action refusing registration of the SHIBA mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv), (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating that:

The protested mark gives rise to a pronunciation of “Shiba” and the concept of “Shina Inu; a breed of small thick-coated agile dogs developed in Japan”.

Even though there is a difference in meaning and sound, by virtue of the remarkable degree of reputation and popularity of the PUMA mark and the impressive resemblance of both marks in appearance, the examiner has a reason to believe relevant consumers would confuse a source of the designated goods of class 25, namely clothing, belts, footwear, sportswear, sports shoes, and headgear, bearing the SHIBA mark with PUMA.

Besides, there is reasonable doubt that the applicant must have been aware of PUMA and applied for the protested mark with malicious intent to harm not only PUMA but also the public interest.

Unless the applicant is successful in persuading the examiner of the dissimilarity of the mark, the unlikelihood of confusion with PUMA, and the non-existence of malicious intent, it will be rejected as a matter of course.


It is my advice to take advantage of the letter of protest, rather than opposition if you want to protect your brand against free-rider in Japan.

Louboutin 2nd Defeat in Litigation over Red Soles

By order of December 26, 2022, the IP High Court ruled to dismiss an appeal taken by Louboutin against the Tokyo District Court ruling that denied a source-indicating function of Louboutin’s red soles.

[Appeal court case no. Reiwa4(ne)10051]

Appellant, Christian Louboutin SAS, brought an appeal against the Tokyo District Court ruling decided on March 11, 2022.

In May 2019, Louboutin sued Eizo Collection Co., Ltd., a Japanese company that produced ladies’ shoes with red-colored rubber soles, and sought a permanent injunction as well as damages in the amount of JPY4,208,000 under the Unfair Competition Prevention Law. The Tokyo District Court did not side with Louboutin by finding an insufficient reputation of Louboutin’s red soles perse as a source indicator and thus unlikelihood of confusion.
See details here.


The IP High Court paid attention to the following factors to assess the likelihood of confusion in the case.

  1. Relevant consumers of high-heels (women from their 20s to 50s) are most likely to try on multiple pairs of shoes at a physical store and select the ones that fit them prior to the purchase.
  2. The market for women’s high heels can be divided into three categories: (1) luxury brand products, (2) affordable brand products, and (3) inexpensive no-name products. Undoubtedly, Louboutin’s high-heels priced at JPY80,000 and over are classified into category (1). In the meantime, Eizo’s shoes priced at JPY17,000 or less belong to category (2).
  3. Every high-heel bears a brand name or logo on the insole so that consumers can easily distinguish its supplier.
  4. E-commerce websites post not only images of ladies’ shoes but also the brand and condition of respective goods in advertisements.

Based on the foregoing, the judge found, irrespective of the resemblance in color on the outsole, no likelihood of confusion between both shoes.


As for the reputation of Louboutin’s red soles, the IP High Court admitted certain consumers may recognize the red soles as a source indicator of Louboutin, however, the judge questioned if the soles have acquired a remarkable reputation among relevant consumers in general based on the research targeted women, in their 20s to 50s accustomed to wearing high-heels, residing in major cities that revealed only 51.6 % of the interviewees answered Louboutin at the sight of a high-heel with red-colored sole and a fact that Louboutin has not been an exclusive supplier of red sole shoes for women.

Failed trademark opposition by Volkswagen: POLO vs. QOLO

On December 28, 2022, the JPO Opposition Board dismissed the opposition claimed by German car giant Volkswagen AG against TM Reg no. 6512258 for the wordmark “Qolo” by finding dissimilarity to, and the unlikelihood of confusion with VW’s famous car model name “Polo” even when used in relation to automobiles.

[Opposition Case no. 2022-900157]

Opposed mark

Qolo Inc., a Japanese start-up company, filed a trademark application for the wordmark “Qolo” for various goods and services in classes 9, 10, 12, 20, 37, 42, and 44 including automobiles and repair, maintenance, and rental of cars on September 7, 2021.

The JPO granted protection of the opposed mark on February 10, 2022, and published it for registration on February 21, 2022.


Opposition by VW

Volkswagen AG filed an opposition against the opposed mark on April 19, 2022, before the lapse of a two-month statutory period counting from the publication date and claimed the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing VW’s earlier TM Reg no. 600030-2 for wordmark “POLO” on automobiles in class 12.

VW argued the opposed mark “Qolo” is deemed similar to “POLO” from visual and phonetical points of view. The opposed mark designates “electric vehicles; automobiles” in class 12, “repair and maintenance of automobiles; vehicle battery charging” in class 37, and “rental of automobiles, vehicles” in class 39 that are deemed identical or similar to automobiles.

In view of the remarkable reputation of VW POLO cars and the close resemblance between “Qolo” and “POLO”, it is highly likely that relevant consumers confuse a source of goods and services of the opposed mark when used on automobiles and its related services.


JPO decision

The Board admitted the famousness of the “POLO” mark as a source indicator of VW cars based on the facts that the Volkswagen Polo has been continuously imported to Japan since 1996 and ranked in the top 7 of imported automobiles for the past two decades.

However, the Board found “POLO” and “Qolo” are dissimilar in appearance and sound.

The difference in the first letter consisting of four letters in total would be anything but visually negligible. Likewise, the different pronunciation in the 1st sound consisting of two sounds in total gives rise to a distinctive impression.

By taking into consideration a lower degree of similarity between the marks and lack of originality for the term “POLO”, which means a game played on horseback between two teams, each of four players, the Board negated a likelihood of confusion between “POLO” and “Qolo” even when the opposed mark is used on goods and services in question.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the opposition entirely and decided that the opposed mark “Qolo” shall remain valid as the status quo.

Philippe Starck Lost Trademark Dispute over Starck

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition claimed by Philippe Starck, a French designer, against TM Reg no. 6487488 for the wordmark “Starck” due to the unlikelihood of confusion when used on management, leasing, rental, purchase, and sale of buildings, and real estate agency services in class 36.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900079, Decision date: December 5, 2022]

Opposed mark

Starck Co., Ltd., a Japanese company, sought trademark registration of the wordmark “starck” in standard character to be used on services related to real estate in class 36 on July 2, 2021.

Without raising any objections in the course of substantive examination, the JPO granted protection of the opposed mark on December 13, 3021, and subsequently published for post-grant opposition on January 13, 2022.


Opposition by Philippe Starck

Philip Starck, a French designer known for his wide range of designs, including everything from interior design to household objects and architecture, filed an opposition with the JPO on March 15, 2022, just before the lapse of a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date.

He argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law in view of the high reputation of the term “Starch” as an indication of the opponent and close relatedness between the service in question and architectural design service.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board did not admit the famousness of the mark “Starck” as a source indicator of the opponent’s design service from the produced evidence even though the Board found the mark has acquired a certain degree of recognition as a name of designer among relevant consumers.

Besides, the Board considered architectural design services shall be remotely associated with the management, leasing, rental, purchase, and sale of buildings, and real estate agency services in class 36.

If so, irrespective of the identical marks, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers would conceive of the opponent at a slight of the service in question using the opposed mark and confuse its source 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.

Warner Defeated in Trademark Opposition over TWEETY

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Warner Bros against Japanese trademark registration no. 6452448 for the TWETYBIRD mark with a device by finding dissimilarity to and less likelihood of confusion with “Tweety”, a yellow canary bird, featured in the Warner Bros Looney Tunes animated cartoons.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900459, Decision date: October 26, 2022]

Japan TM Reg no. 6452448

The opposed mark, consisting of the word “TWETYBIRD” and an encircled “B” device (see below), was filed by a Chinese company for use on various goods in classes 3,9,14,18,25, and advertising and other services in class 35 on December 16, 2020.

The JPO granted protection on August 25, 2021, and the mark was published for opposition on October 26, 2021.


Opposition by Warner Bros

On December 27, 2021, before the lapse of a two-month opposition period, Warner Brothers Entertainment Incorporated filed an opposition with the JPO, and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for the mark “Tweety”, a yellow canary bird (see below) featured in the Looney Tunes animated cartoons.

Warner Bros alleged that the cited marks have been remarkably famous for the title of the animated cartoons or the name of the cartoon character produced by Warner Bros. In view of the close resemblance between the famous mark “Tweety” and a literal element “Twety” of the opposed mark, it shall be considered the opposed mark is similar to and likely to cause confusion with the opposed mark when used on the goods and service in question.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted a certain degree of reputation and popularity of the cited marks to indicate a cartoon character. However, the Board questioned such popularity as a source indicator of Warner Bros from the totality of the circumstances and the produced evidence.

Besides, the Board found the literal element “TWETYBIRD” of the opposed mark shall be assessed in its entirety from the visual configuration. If so, the opposed mark would not give rise to a similar sound and meaning to “Tweety”. Therefore, the Board has a reason to believe that relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse a source of the goods and services in question bearing the opposed mark with Warner Bros due to a low degree of similarity between marks and reputation of the cited marks as a source indicator of Warner Bros.

In the decision, the Board mentioned it is doubtful if relevant consumers acquaint themselves with “Tweety Bird” as the full name of “Tweety”. If so, there is no reasonable ground to find the opposed mark violates morality or public order.

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

ZOOM vs ZOOM PHONE

In a trademark opposition disputing the similarity between “ZOOM” and “ZOOM PHONE” in relation to the SaaS service of class 42, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) found both marks dissimilar and sustained registration of TM Reg no. 6527182 “ZOOM PHONE” owned by Zoom Video Communications Inc.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900213, decided on October 26, 2022]

ZOOM PHONE

Zoom Phone is a cloud-based phone system, which allows you to place and receive calls via laptop or smartphone through the Zoom application.

Zoom Video Communications Inc. filed a trademark application for the wordmark “ZOOM PHONE” in standard character for use on web conferencing services; the transmission of instant messages; telepresence conferencing services; network conferencing services; teleconferencing services; videoconferencing services; audio teleconferencing; web messaging services in class 38, and software as a service [SaaS] in class 42 with the JPO on December 18, 2020.

The mark was registered on March 14, 2022, and published for opposition on March 23, 2022.


Opposition by Zoom

On May 23, 2022, before the lapse of a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, Zoom Co., Ltd., an owner of the trademark “ZOOM” in Japan, filed an opposition and argued the opposed mark shall be partially canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier registrations for word mark “ZOOM” in class 9.

The opponent argued that the opposed mark consists of two words, “ZOOM” and “PHONE”. The term “PHONE” lacks distinctiveness in relation to SaaS service since it makes use of telecommunication devices, inter alia smartphone. Therefore, the term “ZOOM” shall be a prominent portion as a source indicator of the opposed mark. If so, the opposed mark is deemed similar to the cited mark “ZOOM”.


JPO decision

The Opposition Board found the opposed mark shall be visually and phonetically considered in its entirety due to alphabets of the same font and size, and overall sound easily pronounced.

Even if the respective word has a specific meaning, relevant consumers would see the opposed mark as a coined word since the term “ZOOM PHONE” is not included in any dictionaries.

If so, the Board has a reason to believe the opposed mark shall be considered as a whole, and thus it is not allowed to compare the literal portion “ZOOM” of the opposed mark with the cited marks in assessing the similarity of the mark.

Based on the above findings, the Board assessed the similarity of both marks and held that:

The opposed mark gives rise to a pronunciation of ‘zuːm-foʊn’, but no specific meaning. In the meantime, the cited marks give rise to a pronunciation of ‘zuːm’ and the meaning of ‘the effect of a camera moving toward or away from a subject by using a zoom lens. Obviously, there is a clear distinction between the marks by virtue of the presence of the term “PHONE” from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view.

Consequently, the JPO decided the opposed mark “ZOOM PHONE” is dissimilar to the cited mark “ZOOM” and dismissed the opposition entirely.

ELLE vs Ellenail

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by HACHETTE FILIPACCHI PRESSE, Société Anonyme (FR) against Japanese trademark registration no. 6452048 for stylized wordmark “Ellenail” by finding dissimilarity to and less likelihood of confusion with French fashion magazine “ELLE”.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900440, Decision date: October 7, 2022]

Ellenail

The opposed mark, consisting of the term “Ellenail” with stylization (see below), was applied for registration on August 14, 2020, for goods and services relating to nail care and polish in classes 3, 18, 21, and 44 by es social management, Inc., a Japanese company.

The company opens “Ellenail” nail salons in Tokyo.

The JPO granted protection on October 6, 2021, and was published for opposition on October 26, 2021.


Opposition by ELLE

On December 17, 2021, HACHETTE FILIPACCHI PRESSE, Société Anonyme (hereinafter referred to as HFP), a French company responsible for the well-known women’s magazine ELLE, which had the largest readership of any fashion magazine in the world, filed an opposition with the JPO.

In the opposition, HFP contended that the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark that is identical with, or similar to, any 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, to the benefit of the brand owner and users.

HFP argued that the opposed mark consists of two words, “Elle” and “nail”. It is obvious that the term “nail” lacks distinctiveness in connection with nail-related goods and services. Besides, in view of the fact that the term “nail” is an English word familiar among general consumers in Japan, the term “Elle” shall be considered a prominent portion of the opposed mark. Therefore, the opposed mark as a whole is similar to HFP’s earlier registrations for the mark “ELLE” which has acquired a substantial degree of reputation and popularity. Because of it, relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive the opposed mark with HFP or any business entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent at the sight of the goods and services in question bearing the opposed mark.


JPO decision

The Board admitted the “ELLE” mark has acquired a high degree of reputation and popularity among relevant consumers and traders as a source indicator of the fashion magazines.

In the meantime, the Board found the opposed mark shall be assessed in its entirety from visual and conceptual points of view. Facts that the word “nail” is descriptive in relation to the goods and services in question and the term “Ellenail” is a combination of two different languages, namely “Elle” in French and “nail” in English, shall not be a good reason to consider the word “Elle” a prominent portion of the opposed mark because of a tight combination of two words. By finding this, the Board concluded the opposed mark is dissimilar to the “ELLE” mark.

Taking into consideration a quite low degree of similarity between the marks, and a remote association between nail-related goods and services and the opponent business, the Board had no reason to believe that relevant consumers would mistakenly assume the opposed goods or services originate from the same source as or are associated with, the opponent.

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

General Motors defeated in trademark opposition over HUMMER

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by General Motors LLC against TM Reg no. 6387036 for “HEAVYDUTY HUMMER” with “HH” device by finding dissimilarity to and the unlikelihood of confusion with the automotive brand “HUMMER.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900295, Gazette issued date: September 30, 2022]

HEAVY DUTY HUMMER

The opposed mark, consisting of a word “HEAVYDUTY HUMMER” and “HH” device (see below), was filed with the JPO on February 18, 2021, for use on bicycles in class 12 and tent in class 22.

By virtue of the accelerated examination procedure, the mark was granted protection in two months (April 21, 2021) and published for opposition on June 1, 2021.


Opposition by General Motors

On August 2, 2021, before the lapse of a two-month opposition period, General Motors LLC filed an opposition by citing earlier TM Reg no. 2682898 for the wordmark “HUMMER” in classes 6,9,12,13,22.

In the opposition, GM contended that the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

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)(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, to the benefit of the brand owner and users.

GM argued that the opposed mark is similar to earlier registration for the mark “HUMMER” and relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive the opposed mark with GM or any business entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent due to the high popularity of the opponent’s automotive brand “HUMMER” and the close resemblance between the opposed mark and “HUMMER”.


JPO decision

The Board negated a certain degree of reputation and popularity of the HUMMER mark among relevant consumers and traders as a source indicator of GM by stating:

“From the produced evidence, the opponent allegedly has used the cited mark as a brand name for four-wheel drive vehicles since 1999 that have been imported and sold in Japan since at least 2002. However, GM terminated its production in May 2010. Besides, being that there is no clear evidence to demonstrate the timing, sales volume, sales amount, market share, scale of marketing, and advertising in relation to “automobiles” and “bicycles” in Japan, the Board has no reason to find the cited mark has been widely recognized by the relevant public as a source indicator of the opponent business.”

In assessing the similarity of mark, the Board found that the literal portion “HEAVYDUTY HUMMER”, represented in the same font and the same size, gives a coherent and unified impression from appearance. The sound is not particularly redundant and can be pronounced in a series without difficulty. The term “HEAVYDUTY” is anything but an English word that is commonly used in Japan. If so, it is not permissible to separate and extract the term “HUMMER” from the opposed mark and compare it with the cited mark.

Based on the above findings, the Board compared the opposed mark with the cited mark in its entirety.

“In the presence or absence of the HH device and the term HEAVYDUTY, both marks are clearly distinguishable and there is no risk of confusion in appearance and sound. Since both marks do not give rise to any specific meaning, both marks are not comparable in concept.”

Consequently, the Board concluded that relevant traders or consumers would not confuse or misconceive a source of the opposed mark with GM or any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent when used on any goods in question and allowed the opposed mark to survive.