JPO finds “CLUB MOET KYOTO” and “Moët & Chandon” likely to cause confusion

The Opposition Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with MHCS, the producer, inter alia, of the famous Moët & Chandon champagne, and decided to cancel trademark registration no. 6030384 for word mark “CLUB MOET KYOTO” due to a likelihood of confusion with “Moët & Chandon”.

CLUB MOET KYOTO

Opposed mark, a word mark “CLUB MOET KYOTO” written in standard character, was filed on November 14, 2017 by designating restaurant service of class 43 in the name of a Japanese business entity having its principal place of business at Kyoto. It appears the applicant owns hostess bar and opposed mark is actually used as a name of the bar. See here.

Immediately after filing the application, applicant requested the JPO to accelerate examination of opposed mark. In accordance with the request, the JPO rushed to a decision and admitted registration on March 23, 2018.

MHCS – OPPOSITION

MHCS, as a holder of the Japanese trademark “MOET”, sought to retroactively cancel the registration of opposed mark, on the grounds that the mark was likely to cause confusion with “Moët & Chandon” when used on restaurant service in class 43 under Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Likelihood of confusion is a key criteria when assessing the similarity of trademarks. To establish whether there is likelihood of confusion, the visual, phonetic and conceptual similarity will be assessed as well as the goods and/or services involved. This assessment is based on the overall impression given by those marks, account being taken, in particular, of their distinctive and dominant components. A low degree of similarity between the goods or services may be offset by a high degree of similarity between the marks, and vice versa.

MHCS argued that a term “MOET” of opposed mark shall playa a dominant role as a source indicator since both “CLUB” and “KYOTO” are devoid of distinctive character in relation to restaurant service. If so, relevant consumers may misconceive “Moët & Chandon” from opposed mark when used on the service in question by taking its prestigious reputation of “Moët” as an abbreviation of world-famous champagne into consideration.

OPPOSITION DECISION

The JPO Opposition Board decided in favor of MHCS, finding that both “Moët & Chandon” and its abbreviation “Moët” have acquired substantial reputation as a top ranking champagne brand distributed by MHCS. It is unlikely that relevant consumers would conceive “Moët” as a surname of foreigners. If so, the term is anything but a dictionary word, rather a coined word. Besides, both marks are confusingly similar, due to visual, phonetic and conceptual similarities, since the literal elements “CLUB” and “KYOTO” of opposed mark are devoid of distinctive character in relation to the service in question, as well as close association between champagne and restaurant service for which protection was sought based on the fact that MHCS once opened restaurant in the year 2014.

Based on the above considerations, the Opposition Board cancelled trademark registration of opposed mark in its entirety, finding there to be likelihood of confusion between “Moët & Chandon” and the trademark applied for.
[Opposition case no. 2018-900152, Gazette issued date: October 25, 2019]

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