IP High Court Rejected TM Registration of AP “ROYAL OAK” Watch Design

On March 28, 2024, the Japan IP High Court decided to dismiss the appeal filed by Audemars Piguet Holding SA, a Swiss luxury watchmaker, against the JPO’s decision (Appeal No. 2021-013234) to reject TM Application No. 2020-20319 for the device mark representing AP’s iconic “ROYAL OAK” watch collection for lack of both inherent and acquired distinctiveness.
[Court case no. Reiwa5(Gyo-ke)10119]


Audemars Piguet “ROYAL OAK” Watch Collection

On February 26, 2020, Audemars Piguet Holding SA (AP) filed a trademark application for the shape of the flagship watch collection “ROYAL OAK” (see below) to be used on ‘watches’ in class 14 with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) [TM application no. 2020-20319].

The mark consists of a dial with tapisserie pattern and hour markers, minute track, date window, an octagonal bezel with 8 hexagonal screws, case, a crown, and a lug of the famed “ROYAL OAK” watch collections.


JPO Refusal

On June 8, 2023, the JPO Appeal Board affirmed the examiner’s rejection and decided to refuse registration of the applied mark due to a lack of inherent distinctiveness based on Articles 3(1)(iii) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating that relevant consumers would simply recognize it as a generic shape of a wristwatch, not a specific source indication since many watchmakers have supplied with similar shape to the dial, bezel, case, crown, and lug of the applied mark (see below examples).

Besides, the Board found the produced evidence is insufficient to determine whether the shape per se has acquired nationwide recognition as a source indicator of AP’s watches.

Audemars Piguet Holding SA filed a lawsuit with the Japan IP High Court on October 20, 2023, and disputed inherent and acquired distinctiveness of the applied mark.


IP High Court ruling

  • Inherent distinctiveness: Article 3(1)(iii)

In the decision, the judge said “There is no particular circumstance in which the shape represented by the applied mark is taken novel in comparison with the shapes of other wristwatches. If so, it is considered within the range of shapes normally required to achieve basic function of the goods. Even supposing that the shape is unique as a whole, the shape of each component is made in a form suitable for use as a wristwatch, and selected from the viewpoint to achieve the function of the goods. Therefore, the applied mark lacks distinctiveness since it remains within the scope of expected selection of the shape for functional reasons of a wristwatch.”

AP claimed the JPO finding is inadequate because none of competitors watches have the same combination of three unique features, namely, (i) an octagonal bezel, (ii) 8 hexagonal screws, and (iii) tapisserie pattern on the surface of a dial. Visual similarity in one or two components are insufficient to deny inherent distinctiveness of the applied mark.

However, the court did not agree with this allegation and said “It is sufficient to assess whether each shape of components is distinctive as part of the shape of wristwatch”.

  • Acquired distinctiveness: Article 3(2)

AP argued acquired distinctiveness of the applied mark as a result of substantial use since 1972. Allegedly, annual sales of the “ROYAL OAK” luxury watches exceed JPY 8 billion on average in the past six years. Each year, AP spent more than JPY400 million on advertisement and promotion in Japan.

In this respect, the court pointed out the “ROYAL OAK” watches have some collections that do not represent three unique features, such as, “Royal Oak Offshore” and “Royal Oak Concept” (see below). If so, the annual sales and expenditures on advertisement and promotion would not all attribute to watches representing the applied mark.

Besides, AP has not produced the result of market research to demonstrate a certain degree of recognition of the applied mark. Accordingly, the court has no reason to believe the applied mark per se has played a role in identifying the source of famous luxury watch, Audemas Piguet.

Based on the foregoing, the court determined that the JPO did not err in its findings and that the application of Article 3(1)(iii) and 3(2) was appropriate. As a result, the court decided to dismiss the appeal in its entirely.

Japan IP High Court said No to registering the color of Hermes packaging.

The Japan IP High Court ruled to dismiss Herme’s appeal against the JPO decision that rejected Hermes packaging color due to a lack of inherent and acquired distinctiveness.
[Court case no. Reiwa5 (Gyo-ke) 10095, ruled on March 11, 2024]


Color mark of Hermes box

On August 23, 2023, HERMES INTERNARTIONAL filed an appeal with the Japan IP High Court to seek the cancellation of the JPO refusal decision (Appeal case no. 2021-13743) that denied registration of TM App no. 2018-133223 for a color mark consisting of orange on the entire box and brown on the upper outline of the box. (see below)

The application designates various goods in classes 3, 14, 16, 18, and retail services for the goods in class 35.


Second Market Research

HERMES conducted a second market research study in August 2023 to demonstrate acquired distinctiveness of its packaging color. The study targeted men and women in their 30s to 50s residing in nine prefectures who expressed interest in bags, accessories, watches, cosmetics, or perfume and had purchased either of these items within the past six months.

According to the second research report, 39.2% of respondents (2,060 in total) answered Hermes when shown three Hermes boxes in different shapes. 44.4% chose Hermes from the ten options (It is notable that 27.2% of respondents selected “Louis Vuitton” as their answer).


IP High Court decision

In their ruling, the judges pointed out the applied mark is classified into a mark consisting of colors, but from descriptions of mark, it is considered a two-color mark combined with a three-dimensional shape (a box).

The judges also noted the submitted evidence did not demonstrate the actual use of the applied mark in relation to perfumery of class 3 and paper boxes, paper bags, paper packages and wrapping papers of class 16, nor did it substantiate the use of the mark in relation to retail services for these goods in class 35.

The judge recognized that the “Hermes” brand has gained significant recognition in Japan, and its degree of renown is considered to be one of the most prominent among all fashion brands. From the submitted advertisement and publications, the applied mark evidently has been used as a symbolic color to indicate “Hermes” in a marketing tactic designed to enhance brand value. It is clear that the Hermes box is a well-known and important identifier for consumers interested in or who have purchased luxury fashion items.

The issue is whether relevant consumers can identify Hermes from the colors per se on Hermes box, without the word “Hermes” and the horse and carriage emblem. In this respect, the court said it useful to review brand recognition research especially in a case for color mark. The judges said the result of two market researches are sufficient (Recognition rate: approximately 40%) to admit acquired distinctiveness in general. However, two researches do not target general consumers by excluding age under 29 and over 60, and limiting their incomes JPY10,000,000 and above (1st research) or those who expressed interest in bags, accessories, watches, cosmetics, or perfume and had purchased either of these items within the past six months (2nd research).

Given the applied mark covers various goods that are regularly consumed by the general public, the researches with such limitations are inadequate and insufficient as evidence to demonstrate acquired distinctiveness of the color mark in question.

Therefore, the court has a reason to believe the JPO did not make an error in denying inherent and acquired distinctiveness of the applied mark and rejecting it based on Article 3(1)(iii) and 3(2) of the Trademark Law.

Based on the foregoing, the court decided to dismiss the entire appeal by Hermes.

Trademark dispute: “CLUB MOET” vs “Moët & Chandon”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) cancelled trademark registration no 6687666 due to a likelihood of confusion with ‘Moët’, which is known as an abbreviation for the world-famous ‘Moët & Chandon’ champagne.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900130, decided on February 29, 2024]


CLUB MOET

Opposed mark, consisting of words “CLUB” and “MOET” combined with a rose design (see below), was filed on June 27, 2021 for use on restaurant services in class 43 by a Japanese individual.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a likelihood of confusion with famous mark “Moët” in connection with alcoholic beverages based on Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law on January 14, 2022. To contest the decision, the applicant filed an appeal with the JPO and claimed to cancel the examiner’s rejection.

On March 16, 2023, the JPO Appeal Board disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and found that the mark would not contain the term “MOET” visually because of a rose design in between “M” and “ET”. If so, relevant consumers are unlikely to associate the mark with “Moët & Chandon” even if the term “MOET” has acquired a certain degree of recognition as an abbreviation of world-famous “Moët & Chandon” champaign. [Appeal case no. 2022-5881]

Accordingly, the Board granted protection of the mark and published for a post-grant opposition on April 17, 2023.


MHCS – OPPOSITION

On May 31, 2023, MHCS, the producer of the famous Moët & Chandon champagne, sought cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of the same article, and claimed the opposed mark is likely to cause confusion with “Moët & Chandon” when used on restaurant service in class 43.

MHCS argued that the combination of literal elements and the rose design can be considered to represent the term ‘MOET’, as the rose design resembles a stylised letter ‘O’. As ‘CLUB’ lacks distinctive character in relation to restaurant service, the term ‘MOET’ should be considered a significant portion as a source indicator.

If so, relevant consumers are likely to associate or misconnect the restaurant using the opposed mark with “Moët & Chandon” due to the high degree of reputation and popularity of the mark “MOET” as an abbreviation of the world-famous champaign, as well as the close resemblance between the opposed mark and “MOET”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board ruled in favor of MHCS, stating that both ‘Moët & Chandon’ and its abbreviation ‘Moët’ have gained significant recognition as a leading champagne brand distributed by MHCS.

The Board determined that the rose design’s outline is almost circular and can be substituted with the letter ‘O’. Therefore, the combination of the literal elements and the rose design will be identified as the term ‘MOET’ in its entirety.

The difference between ‘MOET’ and ‘Moët’ is insignificant. The term ‘CLUB’ lacks distinctiveness in relation to the service in question. Therefore, the Board has reason to find a high degree of similarity between the opposed mark and ‘Moët’.

Besides, there is a certain degree of association between champagne and restaurant services.

Based on the foregoing, the Opposition Board decided that found relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of restaurant using the opposed mark with MHCS or any business entity that is economically or systematically connected with the opponent. As a result, the opposed mark was cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv).

Hummel Victory in Appeal to Overcome Rejection against Chevron Position Mark

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) Appeal Board disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and granted registration of TM App nos. 2018-133121 and 2018-133123 for a position mark consisting of chevron devices in relation to jackets and pants (trousers) of class 25 by finding inherent distinctiveness of the position marks.
[Appeal case nos. 2022-13211, 2022-13212 decided on December 20, 2023]


Hummel Chevron Position Mark

Hummel Holding AS filed two position marks with the JPO (TM App nos. 2018-133121, 2018-133123) on October 25, 2018. TM App no. 2018-133121 consists of 15 chevron devices positioned in series from shoulder to sleeve (see below left), and designates long-sleeved jackets in class 25. TM App no. 2018-133123 consists of 21 chevron devices positioned in series from waist to hem (see below right), and designates pants and trousers in class 25.


JPO Examination

On May 25, 2022, the JPO examiner rejected both marks based on Article 3(1)(vi) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating that:

In fashion industry, there are plenty of jackets and pants with decorations aiming to enhance aesthetic effect of the goods and attract consumers.  Under the circumstances, relevant consumers at the sight of pants or jackets bearing the position mark would not see it as a source indicator, but as a pattern for decorative or functional indication.

Article 3(1)(vi) is a provision to comprehensively prohibit from registering any mark lacking inherent distinctiveness.

Any trademark to be used in connection with goods or services pertaining to the business of an applicant may be registered, unless the trademark:

(vi) is in addition to those listed in each of the preceding items, a trademark by which consumers are not able to recognize the goods or services as those pertaining to a business of a particular person.

Hummel Holding AS filed an appeal against the rejection on August 23, 2022 and argued inherent distinctiveness of the position marks.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board found that respective mark would be far from a common or descriptive device as a whole.

In relevant industries, competitors often provide jackets and pants bearing their brand on the same position with the Hummel Chevron mark. If so, consumers are also accustomed to distinguishing a source of the goods by means of devices depicted on the position.

Bearing in mind that the applicant has been extensively and continuously using the position marks on their jackets and pants, presumably the marks have become famous as a source indicator of the applicant among relevant consumers.

Besides, the Board could not find any evidence of a common use of the chevron device on the same position as a decorative or functional indication.

Based on the foregoing, the Board held that relevant consumers would recognize the position marks as a source indicator. If so, the examiner made an error in finding distinctiveness of respective mark. Therefore, the Board disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and decided in favor of Hummel Holding AS consequently.

Is Mr. Benjamin Brown around?

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) reversed the examiner’s rejection to TM App no. 2022-13396 for word mark “Benjamin Brown” in classes 25 and 28 based on Article 4(1)(viii) of the Trademark Law by stating the mark would not be completely identical with a full name of the person “Benjamin Brown” alive.

[Appeal case no. 2023-4642, decided on November 9, 2023]

Benjamin Brown

Japanese company, Kabushiki Kaisha Pmang, filed trademark application for a word mark “Benjamin Brown” for use on various goods in class 25 and 28, especially golf wear, shoes and other gold items, with the JPO on February 7, 2022.

On December 19, 2022, the JPO examiner rejected the mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii) of the Japan Trademark Law since “Benjamin Brown” corresponds to a full name of person, an Israeli professor, researcher of Judaism and Jewish thought, lecturer at the Department of Jewish thought at Hebrew University.


Article 4(1)(viii)

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

Notwithstanding the provision, the article is not applicable where the applicant could obtain a written consent from the person.

The Supreme Court of Japan ruled the article has aimed to protect personality rights of a living individual. Therefore, the article is not applicable when the person is no longer alive.

The applicant filed an appeal against the rejection on March 20, 2023 and argued that registration of the mark “Benjamin Brown” in relation to goods of classes 25 and 28 would never cause damages of personal right to Israeli professor at Hebrew University.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board found that the applied mark “Benjamin Brown” shall be conceived as a coined word in its entirety. Relevant consumers are unlikely to associate it with a full name of particular person.

It is uncertain if “Benjamin Brown” is a full name of the professor or alive (!). Besides, the Board can’t find any reason to believe that his name has been highly recognized among consumers in Japan.

If so, the applied mark shall not be subject to Article 4(1)(viii). Since the examiner made an error in applying the article, it should be cancelled in due course, the Board decided.

JPO decision to trademark dissimilarity, Unbelievable or Believable?

On November 9, 2023, the JPO Appeal Board reversed the examiner’s rejection to TM Application no. 2021-98849 for word mark “ADEAM/ICHI” by finding dissimilarity to earlier trademark registrations for word mark “ICHI”.
[Appeal case no. 2022-19409]


Earlier TM registrations “ICHI”

Following trademarks have been effectively registered since 2015 at the latest.

  • TM Reg no. 4736544 (soaps and detergent, incense, cosmetics in class 3)
  • TM Reg no. 5756228 (clothing, waistbands, belts [clothing] in class 25)
  • TM Reg no. 5991461 (bags and pouches, wallets, umbrella, walking sticks in class 18)

Junior mark “ADEAM/ICHI”

On August 6, 2021, FOXY Corporation filed a word mark consisting of “ADEAM” with larger roman-font and “ICHI” with smaller gothic-font in two lines (see below) for use on various goods and services in classes 3,14,16,18,24,25, and 35.

The JPO examiner rejected the applied mark due to a conflict with the earlier TM registrations for the mark “ICHI” owned by other entity based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law on September 6, 2022.

Subsequently, the applicant filed an appeal against the rejection on December 1, 2022 and disputed dissimilarity of mark.


JPO Appeal Board decision

To my surprise, the Appeal Board found the applied mark is dissimilar to the cited marks and decided to cancel the examiner’s rejection by stating that:

Since the term “ICHI” of the applied mark is placed just beneath the term “ADEAM” in the middle about a quarter of the font size, from appearance, the term “ADEAM” occupies a large portion of the applied mark in its entirety. Thus, relevant consumers would have an impression that the term “ADEAMN” is considered as a dominant portion to identify a source of goods and service.

Besides, the term “ADEAM” is apparently a coined word. The term “ICHI” also does not give rise to a clear meaning. Therefore, conceptually there is no particular difference in assessing distinctiveness of respective term.

The Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers would focus only on the portion “ICHI” of the applied mark as a source indicator by separating the dominant element “ADEAM”.

If so, it shall not be permissible to compare the literal portion “ICHI” of the applied mark with the cited marks.

In this respect, the examiner made an error in applying Article 4(1)(xi).

Based on the foregoing, the Board granted registration of the applied mark

JPO decided trademark “MONO” dissimilar to “MONO+”

In a trademark appeal disputing similarity between “MONO” and “MONO+”, the Appeal Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) reversed the examiner’s rejection and found both marks dissimilar and unlikely to cause confusion.

[Appeal case no. 2023-6307, decided on November 1, 2023]

MONO+

Onoya Inc. filed a mark “MONO+” (see below) for use on retail or wholesale services for furniture, joinery fittings, flowers [natural] and trees, kitchen equipment, cleaning tools and washing utensils in class 35 with the JPO on September 11, 2021.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a conflict with earlier TM Reg no. 4533103 for wordmark “MONO” in standard character on goods of food wrapping plastic film for household purposes; garbage bags of paper or plastic for household purposes; hygienic hand tools of paper; towels of paper; table napkins of paper; hand towels of paper; handkerchiefs of paper in class 16 based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law.

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

There is criterion that the examiner is checking when assessing the similarity between the marks:

  • visual similarity
  • aural similarity
  • conceptual similarity

and taking into account all these three aspects examiner makes a decision if a mark is similar (at least to some extent) with the earlier mark and if there is a likelihood of confusion for the consumers.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Board found the applied mark “MONO+” gives rise to a sound of “mono-plus”, but it has no specific meaning in view of overall appearance and a meaning of respective word “MONO” and “+”.

As for the cited mark, the Board held the term “MONO” is not a foreign word familiar among relevant consumers in Japan. Thus, it has a sound of “mono”, but no specific meaning.

Comparing both marks, although they share the same appearance in that both contain the word “MONO”, they are sufficiently distinguishable because, by virtue of the presence or absence of the “+” symbol at the end, it is conceived both marks represent different words as a whole.  

Phonetically, they start with the same sound “mono”, but the overall tone and impression are different with or without the sound “plus” at the end. Due to the reason, both sounds can be distinguishable.

It is meaningless to compare the concept of both marks because neither does give rise to a specific meaning.

If so, from the totality of visual, aural, and conceptual points of view, the Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers are likely to confuse the source of the services in class 35 bearing the applied mark with the earlier mark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found both marks are dissimilar regardless of similarity in goods and services, and decided to cancel the rejection and granted protection of the applied mark.

Japan IP High Court ruled “athlete Chiffon” descriptive in relation to hotel and restaurant services.

On October 12, 2023, the Japan IP High Court affirmed the JPO refusal decision to TM App no. 2021-93231 for word mark “athlete Chiffon” in class 43 due to a lack of distinctiveness.

[Court case no. Reiwa5(Gyo-ke)10038]

JPO refusal decision

Disputed mark, consisting of two words “athlete” and “Chiffon” in standard character, was filed for use of providing temporary accommodation; accommodation bureaux services; providing foods and beverages in class 43 with The Japan Patent Office (JPO) on July 27, 2021 (TM App no. 2021-93231).

The JPO examiner rejected the mark based on Article 3(1)(iii) and Article 4(1)(xvi) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating that relevant consumers at sight of the disputed mark would merely conceive of a restaurant to provide Chiffon cakes for athletes and it will cause misrepresentation of a particular quality of service when used on other services.

Applicant filed an appeal against the examiner’s rejection. However, the JPO Appeal Board sustained the examiner’s findings and decided to refuse the disputed mark on March 22, 2023.


Appeal to the IP High Court

On April 20, 2023, the applicant filed a lawsuit to dispute registrability of the disputed mark with the IP High Court and asked the court to annul the JPO decision based on the facts that the JPO has allowed registration of lots of trademarks containing the term “athlete”, but none of them restrict its usage of designated goods or services “for athletes”. Cake shops containing a term “Chiffon” in their trade name have even delt with cakes other than chiffon. If so, the JPO obviously made an error in denying distinctiveness of respective term “athlete” and “Chiffon”. Because of it, the JPO refusal decision shall be cancelled.


IP High Court decision

From the produced evidence, the IP High Court found that, in the industry of foods and beverages, terms such as “athlete cake” and “athlete pan cakes” are commonly used to indicate special goods and service for athletes. If so, relevant consumers and traders would consider a term consisting of “athlete” followed by generic word of goods or service as an indication to specify the target of the goods or service (for athletes). “Chiffon” is known in the industry as a term to indicate ‘food that is made light by adding the clear part of eggs that have been beaten’ and commonly used in conjunction with other descriptive term, e.g., “Choco chiffon”, “banana chiffon”, “Valentine chiffon”.

Under the circumstances, the court has a reason to believe that relevant consumers would consider the term “athlete Chiffon” as a mere descriptive indication of the restaurant to provide chiffon (cakes) for athletes when used in relation to the service in question.

Screen capture from “athlete Chiffron” facebook page

A fact that several cake shops containing a term “Chiffon” in their trade name have delt with cakes other than chiffon is irrelevant to the case given the consumers conceive of chiffon cake at sight of the term “athlete Chiffon” when used on restaurant service.

Based on the foregoing, the court held the JPO did not make any error in finding facts and applying trademark law and thus the disputed mark shall be unregistrable under Article 3(1)(iii) and 4(1)(xvi).

Japan IP High Court Decision to A Position Mark of Dr. Martens’ Yellow Welt Stitch

On August 10, 2023, the Japan IP Hight Court ruled to dismiss an appeal by Airwair International Limited to the JPO’s rejection against a position mark for Dr. Martens’ Yellow Welt Stitch.

[Court case no. Reiwa 5(Gyo-ke)10003]

Dr. Martens’ Yellow Welt Stitch

Airwair International Limited, a UK company, applied a position mark consisting of a yellow stitching around the perimeter of footwear on the outer sole edge (see below) for use on leather shoes and boots in class 25 with the JPO on June 12, 2018 (TM App no. 2018-77608).

Allegedly, first use of the position mark on the Dr. Martens “1460” boots has dated back to 1960 in UK. Leather shoes and boots bearing the yellow welt stitch have been continuously distributed in Japan by the applicant or a local subsidiary (Dr. Martens Japan) via company store (61 shops at present) and major shoes retailers since 1985. Recent annual sales for Dr.  Martens’ shoes in Japan exceed 6 billion Japanese yens and over 460,000 pairs. Airwair has routinely monitored and taken legal actions against lookalikes of shoes bearing the yellow welt stitch and been successful in stopping distribution of following shoes.

According to the brand awareness survey that targeted a total of 1,019 men and women aged from 15 to 59, 30.7% of the interviewees who have purchased leather shoes and boots could answer Dr. Martens at the sight of black leather shoes with the yellow welt stitch and 37.6% selected Dr. Martens from multiple choice.

On August 23, 2022, The JPO Appeal Board decided the yellow stitching of Dr. Martens does not possess its own distinctive character by stating that relevant consumers would not see the stitch as a source indicator, but as a mere decoration. The Board also negated acquired distinctiveness of the position mark based on the fact that a majority of frequent users of the goods in question could not connect the stitch with Dr. Martens. Accordingly, the Board sustained the examiner’s rejection (Appeal case no. 2021-2446).

Airwair filed an appeal against the JPO Appeal Board decision and argued inherent and acquired distinctiveness of the Dr. Martens’ yellow welt stitch in relation to leather shoes and goods.


IP High Court decision

Inherent distinctiveness

The Court paid attention to the circumstance that plenty of leather shoes and boots have been manufactured by means of the Goodyear Welted Method for long years and the thread stitched to attach the upper to the sole has often identical or similar color to the upper and sole. If so, in relation to yellow-colored shoes, a yellow stitch would be anything but distinctive.

Bearing in mind that the applied mark does not specify a color of the upper and the sole, the judge had a view that it is allowed to assess inherent distinctiveness of the position mark in relation to the shoes with a yellow thread, upper and sole and any colors.

Based on the foregoing, the Court found the position mark lacks inherent distinctiveness in relation to leather shoes and boots and shall be unregistrable based on Article 3(1)(iii) of the Trademark Law.

Acquired distinctiveness

The Court questioned relevance of the brand awareness survey that excluded consumers who had not purchased either leather shoes or boots in the past year. However, by taking account of an expert opinion that points out 15% shall be sufficient to admit distinctiveness of trade dress as a source indicator especially in fashion industry and the survey revealed there were over four times as many interviewees who selected Dr. Martens than Timberland (7.9%) from multiple choice, the judge ruled Dr. Martens’ yellow welt stitch has acquired a certain degree of recognition as a sign that the black leather shoes originate from the Airwair company.

In the meantime, the Court held there is doubt if the position mark would play a role in indicating its source even when used on a yellow or similar colored outsole or welt. As a matter of fact, Airwair has not taken actions against shoes having non-black outsoles and welts.

Given the applied mark does not restrict a color of shoes, a fact that Dr. Martens’ yellow welt stitch has played a role of source indication in relation to black leather shoes and boots is insufficient to find acquired distinctiveness of the appled mark and admit registration under Article 3(2) of the Trademark Law.


Obviously, the Court opens a gate to register Dr. Martens’ yellow welt stitch provided that a position mark consists of yellow stich and black upper and welt.

Shangri-La Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition Over “Shangri-La Golf”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition claimed by Shangri-La Hotels against TM Reg no. 6610570 for the mark “Shangri-La-Golf” in class 35 due to dissimilarity between “Shangri-La” and “Shangri-La-Golf”.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900465, decided on July 26, 2023]

Opposed mark

A Japanese individual filed a stylized word mark “Shangri-La-Golf” (see below) for use on retail and wholesale services in relation to woven fabrics, beddings, clothing, footwear, and personal articles in class 35 with the JPO on June 22, 2020.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for wordmark “SHANGRI-LA”.

However, as a result of the JPO Appeal Board’s decision that found dissimilar to “SHANGRI-LA”, the mark could be registered on September 6, 2022.


Opposition by Shangri-La Hotels

Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd filed an opposition against the opposed mark on November 11, 2022 and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (viii), (x), (xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law due to a remarkable degree of recognition of the cited mark “Shangri-La” and close resemblance between the opposed mark and “Shangri-La”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board questioned a remarkable degree of recognition of the cited mark among relevant public in Japan by stating that the produced evidence is insufficient to find such recognition objectively.

As for appearance, sound and meaning of the opposed mark, the Board found

“The opposed mark consists of “Shangri”, “La”, and “Golf” written in the same font and size, and tightly united by a hyphen (-). Visually, there is no reason to find respective element perse independently plays a role in source indicator of the opposed mark. Besides, the sound arising from the opposed mark as a whole can be pronounced easily.

Even if the term “Golf” has the meaning of a kind of ball game, it is reasonable to find that the term would not be recognized as directly indicating a descriptive meaning or specific quality of the services in question. Relevant consumers would see the opposed mark as a whole.

Therefore, the opposed mark shall be assessed in its entirety and give rise to a pronunciation of “Shangri-La-Golf” and no specific meaning.”

Based on the above finding, the Board decided the opposed mark “Shangri-La-Golf” is dissimilar to the cited mark “Shanri-La” because there is visual and phonetical distinction between the marks by virtue of the term “Golf” and the opposed mark does not give rise to a meaning related to ‘a remote usually idyllic hideaway’.

Accordingly, the Board found the opposition baseless and decided the opposed mark remains as the status quo.