JPO rejected “BAMBI MAMA&BABY” due to a conflict with “BAMBI”

In a trademark appeal disputing the similarity between “BABMI MAMA&BABY” and “BAMBI”, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) affirmed the examiner’s refusal and decided to reject a junior mark “BAMBI MAMA&BABY” due to a conflict with earlier trademark registrations for word mark “BAMBI” owned by Disney Enterprises Inc.

[Appeal case: 2022-786, Decision date: September 7, 2022]

BAMBI

Bambi, a familiar name for a baby deer, has long been famous for a 1942 American animated film produced by Walt Disney.

Disney Enterprises Inc. has owned trademark registration for the wordmark “BAMBI” in various classes (including class 3) since 2008 in Japan (TM Reg no. 5127816). Bambi character design with “BAMBI” written in Japanese (see below) has been registered for five decades.


BAMBI MAMA&BABY

Langley Inc., a Japanese company, filed a trademark application for the wordmark “BAMBI MAMA&BABY” in standard character to be used on cosmetics; soaps and detergents; dentifrices; perfumes and flavor materials; false nails; false eyelashes in class 3 with the JPO on March 2, 2021.

In fact, Langley promotes skin care creams, skin milk, and supplements bearing the BAMBI MAMA&BABY mark. Click here.

Screen capture from https://bambiwater.jp/gold/mamababy/

The JPO examiner rejected the mark based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing TM Reg no. 5127816 “BAMBI” on October 14, 2021.

Langley filed an appeal against the refusal on January 19, 2022, and argued the dissimilarity of mark between “BAMBI” and “BAMBI MAMA&BABY”.


JPO Decision

The JPO Appeal Board found the literal elements of “MAMA&BABY” lacks distinctiveness in relation to the applied goods of class 3 because there are plenty of care products for babies and mothers by competitors on which the term “MAMA&BABY” has been used as a descriptive indication. In the meantime, the term “BAMBI”, famous for the Disney film, shall evidently give an impression of source indicator in the mind of relevant consumers.

If so, it is permissible to find the term “BAMBI” as a prominent portion of the applied mark, and thus compare the portion with the earlier mark in assessing the similarity of the mark.

Undoubtedly, the prominent portion of the applied mark is identical to the cited mark “BAMBI” from visual, phonetical, and conceptual points of view.

Being that TM Reg no. 5127816 designates the goods identical to the applied mark, there is no room to argue the dissimilarity of goods.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to dismiss the appeal and rejected “BAMBI MAMA&BABY” due to a conflict with the earlier registered mark “BABMI” based on Article 4(1)(xi).

Trademark dispute: LAPPI vs LAPPY

In a recent appeal decision, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and found “LAPPI” is dissimilar to and unlikely to cause confusion with “LAPPY” when used on computer-related goods in class 9.

[Appeal case no. 2022-6493, decided on August 24, 2022]


LAPPI

Kabushiki Kaisha LAPPI filed a trademark application for the wordmark “Lappi” in standard character for use on various goods and services in classes 9, 35, 41, and 42 with the JPO on October 15, 2020.

On March 15, 2022, the JPO examiner rejected the LAPPI mark due to a conflict with earlier trademark registration no. 6360979 for the word mark “Lappy” in standard character in connection with computer-related goods and software of class 9 based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to prohibit the registration of a junior mark that is identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

The applicant filed an appeal and argued the dissimilarity of mark between “Lappi” and “Lappy” on April 28, 2022.


JPO Appeal decision

The JPO Appeal Board assessed the similarity between the marks from three aspects (visual similarity, aural similarity, and conceptual similarity) and stated:

Visual similarity

“Although the applied mark and the cited mark share the letter “Lapp” from the beginning of the respective word, they differ in the letters “i” and “y” at the end of the word. In a mark consisting of five letters, the difference at the end of the word shall be easily noticeable, visually impressive, and memorable. Therefore, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable from appearance.”

Aural similarity

The difference between the pronunciation of “Lappi” and “Lappy” rests on the presence or absence of a long vowel at the end of the word. The plosive sound in between makes the sound “pi” and “pi:” be pronounced strongly and clearly. In the short three- or four-note configuration, such differences have a significant impact on the overall pronunciation. Therefore, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable aurally.

Conceptual similarity

Being that either mark does not give rise to a specific meaning, the applied mark “Lappi” is incomparable with the cited mark “Lappy” in concept.

Based on the foregoing, the Board held both marks are dissimilar from the totality of the circumstances and decided to disaffirm the examiner’s rejection and grant protection of the applied mark.

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

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

[Appeal case no. 2021-650016]


IR no. 1440057

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

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

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


Appeal

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

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

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

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

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


JPO decision

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

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

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

No confusion between “InstaShop” and “Instagram”

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

[Appeal case no. 2021-12444]

InstaShop

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

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

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

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

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


JPO decision

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

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

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

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

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

JPO Rejected Colormark of Louboutin’s red soles

On June 7, 2022, the Appeal Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided to reject a red color mark used on the soles of high heels by Christian Louboutin due to a lack of inherent and acquired distinctiveness.

[Appeal case no. 2019-29921]

Louboutin’s Red Soles

Fast on the heels of the introduction to register color marks in Japan, Christian Louboutin filed a trademark application for a color mark consisting of a red (Pantone 18-1663TP) colored in soles (see below) for use on high heels in class 25 on April 1, 2015 (TM App no. 2015-29921).

The JPO examiner refused the color mark based on Article 3(1)(iii) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating red color has been commonly used on shoes to enhance the aesthetic appearance and attract consumers of high heels. Red-colored heels and shoes have been widely distributed before the launch of Louboutin shoes in 1996 in Japan and even now. Under the circumstance and trade practice, the examiner had no reason to believe the color mark perse has acquired distinctiveness as a source indicator of Louboutin among relevant consumers in Japan. If so, the mark shall not be registrable under Article 3(2).

Louboutin filed an appeal against the refusal and disputed the inherent and acquired distinctiveness of Louboutin’s red soles as a color mark on October 29, 2019.

To bolster the acquired distinctiveness of the red soles, Louboutin conducted an online brand awareness survey to target 3,149 females, aging from 20 to 50 and having a domicile in Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya where Louboutin have stores. The survey demonstrated that 43.35% of the interviewees conceived of Louboutin in the answer to an unaided open-ended question (Q1). 53.99% associated the color mark with Louboutin in the answer to a closed-ended question, where it mentioned Louboutin along with other close competitors (Q2). Louboutin argued, that from the survey, it is obvious that Louboutin’s red soles have acquired distinctiveness among relevant consumers and shall be registered under Article 3(2) even though lacking inherent distinctiveness.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board affirmed the examiner’s findings and found the color mark perse lacks distinctiveness in relation to the goods in question by taking into account of fact that a lot of shoes with red-colored soles have been distributed by other shoemakers in Japan.

In the assessment of acquired distinctiveness, the Board pointed out a fact that more than half of the interviewees who live in the region where Louboutin stores are could not conceive of Louboutin in the answer to Q1. The survey was insufficient to admit acquired distinctiveness of the applied mark among relevant consumers nationwide, the Board found.

Even among the consumers who could associate the color mark with Louboutin, the Board had an opinion that as a matter of fact, they will be unable to distinguish Louboutin high heels from competitors’ shoes simply by means of red-colored soles without the aid of another source indicator, a wordmark “Louboutin”, used on the shoes given a lot of red-soled heels and shoes have been distributed by competitors as follows.

Besides, under the current trade practice, the Board considered it will inevitably cause a severe disorder and excessive restriction to competitors if it allows registration of a red color that has been freely used in the relevant industry to enhance the aesthetic appearance of shoes.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO concluded the color mark shall not be registrable under Article 3(2) as well.

COCOGOLF vs COCO

On February 28, 2022, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) reversed the examiner’s rejection and decided to register the applied mark “COCOGOLF” in classes 25 and 28 by finding dissimilarity to Chanel’s earlier registration for the mark “COCO.”


COCOGOLF

The applied mark consists of the word “COCOGOLF” (see below).

Applicant, E-COME GROUP Co., Ltd., filed it for use on various goods in classes 18, 25, and 28 on November 27, 2022. [TM Application no. 2020-146448]

Confronting office action from the JPO, the applicant divided the application and filed a new trademark application on goods of ‘sports shoes; sportswear’ in class 25 and ‘golf bags; golf equipment in class 28 on July 2, 2021. [TM Application no. 2021-82743]

The JPO examiner rejected the mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law on October 12, 2021.

The examiner cited earlier trademark registration nos. #6169514 (cl. 25, 35) and IR699469 (cl. 25) for the wordmark “COCO” owned by Chanel SARL, and found the applied mark “COCOGOLF” is confusingly similar to the cited mark “COCO” when used on the designated goods in class 25 and 28.

The applicant filed an appeal against the rejection on November 17, 2021, and argued for the dissimilarity in the marks.


JPO Decision

The Appeal Board found the applied mark shall be assessed in its entirety by stating:

  1. Visually, there is no reason to consider the term “COCO” as a prominent portion of the applied mark because of its configuration.
  2. The applied mark gives rise to the pronunciation of ‘coco-golf’. The whole sound can be pronounced easily in a breach.
  3. The Board has no reason to believe the term “GOLF” perse has been used to represent specific goods in relation to the goods in question.
  4. If so, relevant consumers at the sight of sports shoes, sportswear, golf bags, and golf equipment bearing the applied mark would see it as a whole, and are unlikely to consider the term “COCO” as a prominent source indicator of the applied mark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found the examiner erred in finding “COCO” to be separable from “GOLF.” Consequently, the Board held the applied mark is dissimilar to the mark “COCO” and granted “COCOGOLF” registration.

[Appeal case no. 2021-15790]

JPO Found Lego 3D Figure Mark Lack Distinctiveness

In a decision to the appeal against refusal to TM App no. 2017-138422 for the 3D shape of Lego figures in class 28, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with Lego Juris A/S and found the 3D mark is inherently descriptive and has not acquired distinctiveness in relation to toys.

[Appeal case no. 2019-13906, Decision date: January 6, 2022]

LEGO 3D Figure mark

Toy giant, Lego Juris A/S applied to the JPO to register a 3D mark, showing the Lego figure seen from the front, side, back, top, and beneath (see below), for “games and playthings” and other goods in class 28 on October 20, 2017.

Article 3(1)(iii)

Trademark Examination Guideline (TEG) pertinent to Article 3(1)(iii) of the Japan Trademark Law provides a mark shall be subject to the article if it solely consists of a shape that is recognized by consumers as a shape of goods or equivalent, namely “not go beyond the scope of the descriptive shape of goods”.

TEG stipulates criteria to assess the recognition.

  1. Where 3D shape is admittedly adopted for a purpose of enhancing function or the aesthetic appeal of goods, the shape is deemed to remain within the scope of descriptive shape of goods.
  2. Even though 3D shape has specific features by means of unique alteration or decoration, it is still considered not to go beyond the scope of descriptive shape of goods, where consumers assume such alteration or decoration attributable to enhancing function or the aesthetic appeal of goods.

The JPO examiner totally rejected the applied mark based on the article by finding the shape remains the scope of the descriptive shape of ‘human figure toys’ in class 28.

Lego Juris A/S filed an appeal against the rejection on October 18, 2019.


JPO decision

The JPO Appeal Board affirmed the findings of the examiner and found the 3D mark does not go beyond the scope of the descriptive shape of the goods in question by stating that:

  1. Plenty of human shape figures have been promoted for sale by competitors in relevant business field.
  2. There is less necessity to adopt specific configuration in making a human shape figure provided that it has a basic skeleton of head, body, arms, and legs.
  3. The Board has a reason to believe 3D shape of the applied mark is adopted enabling (i) to wear several caps and hair wigs, (ii) to get hold of various tools at hand, (iii) to stand still in display and play.
  4. If so, relevant consumers would assume the whole shape and its unique decoration of Lego figure attributable to enhancing function or the aesthetic appeal of the toy.

Taking into consideration that the actual 3D shape of Lego figures are considerably different from the applied mark, and the word mark “LEGO” has been constantly used on catalogs, packages, and advertisement material adjacent to the applied mark, the Board has a reasonable doubt if the 3D shape per se has acquired distinctiveness as a source indicator of LEGO toys.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO Appeal Board decided to dismiss the appeal in contravention of Article 3(1)(iii).

Patagonia Inc Failed in Registering “PATAGONIA”

On December 15, 2021, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) affirmed the examiner’s rejection to protect a wordmark “PATAGONIA” for seafood in class 29 and dismissed an appeal filed by Patagonia Inc. due to a lack of distinctiveness.

[Appeal case no. 2020-16786]

“PATAGONIA”

An American clothing company that markets and sells outdoor clothing, Patagonia Incorporated, filed a divided-trademark application for wordmark “PATAGONIA” in standard character on goods of ‘fresh, chilled or frozen edible aquatic animals (not live); blue mussels, not live; oysters, not live; processed seafood products; soups’ in class 29 on August 19, 2019 (TM Application no. 2019-110730).

The JPO examiner rejected the mark in contravention of Articles 3(1)(iii) and 4(1)(xvi) of the Japan Trademark Law on August 24, 2020.

The examiner asserted “PATAGONIA” refers to a geographical region that encompasses the southern end of South America and is a popular tourist destination for nature-lovers and adventure-seekers. Since Patagonia travel guides often have contents of Patagonia’s seafood, it is likely that relevant consumers and traders at the sight of seafood bearing the wordmark “PATAGONIA” with ordinary care would conceive the goods from the Patagonia region and see it as an indication of the origin of seafood.

If so, whenever the mark is used on seafood, not from the Patagonia region, it inevitably misleads the quality of goods.


Appeal by Patagonia Inc.

On December 7, 2020, Patagonia Inc. filed an appeal against the rejection and argued the term “Patagonia” is frequently accompanied by “region” or “sea” when used to indicate the origin of seafood because Patagonia is neither a nation nor a specific province but is a region comprising of all southerly Chile and Argentina. Being that the applied mark “PATAGONIA” has acquired a substantial degree of reputation and popularity in connection with apparel as a source indicator of Patagonia Inc., relevant consumers would rather conceive of a famous apparel brand at the sight of seafood bearing the mark “PATAGONIA.”

Besides, it is questionable if relevant consumers are familiar with the Patagonian Sea as an origin of seafood available in Japan.


JPO decision

The JPO Appeal Board found the mark “PATAGONIA” lacks distinctiveness in connection with the goods in question by stating that fish and seafood from the Patagonian Sea have been imported to Japan over the past three decades. The term “Patagonia” perse or its transliteration written in Japanese Katakana character has been used to indicate the origin of the goods. Under the circumstances, it is unquestionable that relevant consumers at the sight of seafood bearing the mark “PATAGONIA” would see it as an indication of the origin of the goods.

The Board did not question the famousness of the “PATAGONIA” mark in connection with outdoor-related goods. However, the Board denied the distinctiveness of the mark in relation to seafood even though Patagonia Inc. has promoted seafood for sale in Japan since 2016 because the mark in question is not used, but “PATAGONIA PROVISIONS”.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the entire allegations and decided to reject the mark in contravention of Article 3(1)(iii).

Hermes Challenge to Register Packaging Colors

HERMES INTERNATIONAL, a French luxury fashion house, is in a legal battle to register its iconic packaging colors, orange and brown, as a color mark in Japan.


Color mark of Hermes box

On October 25, 2018, HERMES INTERNATIONAL filed a trademark application for its iconic packaging colors, orange and brown (see below), as a color mark to be used on various goods in class 3, 14, 16, 18, and retail services in class 35 with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) [TM application no. 2018-133223].


Article 3(1)(iii) and 3(1)(vi)

The JPO examiner rejected the color mark under Article 3(1)(iii) and 3(1)(vi) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating that colors per se are unlikely to play a role in source indicator because they are frequently aimed to attract consumers in association with function or quality of goods and services. Because of it, relevant consumers at the sight of goods or services bearing the applied color would not see the combination of colors, orange and brown, as a source indicator.


Acquired Distinctiveness

Hermes argued acquired distinctiveness of the color combination as a result of substantial use on Hermes box for the past six decades from the 1960s onward.

A bottleneck is that the Hermes box contains its name “HERMES” and horse and carriage logo as a conspicuous source indicator. Hermes conducted market research to demonstrate the acquired distinctiveness of the packaging color per se. The research targeted high-income men and women in their 30s to 50s with incomes JPY10,000,000 and above. According to the research report, 36.9% of the interviewees answered Hermes when shown three boxes in different shapes with the color mark. 43.1% chose Hermes from ten options.


JPO Rejection

The JPO examiner did not find the research persuasive to support acquired distinctiveness among relevant consumers of the goods and services in question.

The examiner stated the relevant consumers shall not be limited to the high-income class. Besides, even among high-income consumers, more than half of them did not link the color to Hermes. From the research, it is doubtful if relevant consumers would conceive the color per se as a source indicator.

Based on the above findings, the examiner totally rejected the applied color mark under Article 3(1)(iii) and (vi) on July 9, 2021.

HERMES INTERNATIONAL filed an appeal against the rejection on October 8, 2021.

Formula One Successful in Registering “F1”

In a recent decision, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) overturned the examiner’s rejection and decided to register the wordmark “F1” in standard character by finding acquired distinctiveness as a source indicator in relation to automobile races in class 41.

[Appeal case no. 2021-1819, Decision date: November 5, 2021]

F1

Formula One Licensing BV, managing the trademarks for the FIA Formula One World Championship, applied wordmark “F1” in standard character for use on ‘organization, arranging and conducting of automobile races; providing information relating to automobile races’ in class 41 on May 7, 2018 (TM App no. 2018-58985).


Article 3(1)(v)

The JPO examiner rejected the mark “F1” because of lack of inherent distinctiveness based on Article 3(1)(v) of the Japan Trademark Law on the grounds that a sign consisting of a digit and an alphabet is commonly used in transactions to represent article number, model number or standards. If so, the applied mark shall not play a role in a specific source indicator.

Article 3(1)(v) prohibits any mark from registering if it solely consists of a very simple and common sign.

Trademark Examination Guidelines (TEG) sets forth that a mark consisting of one or two alphabetical letters followed by a numeral, e.g. “A2”, “AB2”, is unregistrable under the article.

Followings are also enumerated as unregistrable marks under the article.

Numerals

One or two alphabetical letters, e.g. “AA”

Two alphabetical letters combined with “-” or “&”, e.g. “A-B”, “C&D”

One or two alphabetical letters accompanied by “Co.”, e.g. “AB Co.”

A numeral followed by one or two alphabetical letters, e.g. “2A”

The applicant filed an appeal against the refusal and argued the distinctiveness of the “FS12” mark.

Formula One Licensing BV filed an appeal against the refusal and argued acquired distinctiveness of the “F1” mark on February 9, 2021.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board affirmed the examiner’s finding that the applied mark “F1” inherently lacks distinctiveness as a source indicator and shall not be registered under Article 3(1)(v).

In the meantime, the Board found the mark has acquired distinctiveness as a result of substantial use in relation to automobile races to indicate Formula One for more than seven decades. The Board could not find a single fact that the term “F1” has been used in relation to the services in question by any entity unrelated to the applicant. If so, the Board has a reasonable ground to believe that relevant consumers and traders would conceive the mark “F1” as a source indicator of Formula One and shall be exceptionally registered under Article 3(2).

Article 3(2)

Notwithstanding the preceding paragraph, a trademark that falls under any of items (iii) to (v) of the preceding paragraph may be registered if, as a result of the use of the trademark, consumers are able to recognize the goods or services as those pertaining to a business of a particular person.

Based on the above findings, the Board overturned the examiner’s rejection and granted protection of the wordmark “F1” in standard character for use on services relating to automobile races in class 41.