GUCCI Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition

On July 12, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition claimed by Italian fashion house Gucci against Japan Trademark Registration no. 6384970 for the mark “CUGGL” with a hand-painted line in pink by finding less likelihood of confusion with famous fashion brand “GUCCI”.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900284]

CUGGL

Opposed mark, consisting of the term “CUGGL” with a hand-painted line in pink, was applied for use on clothing, footwear, headwear, and apparel in class 25 by an individual on October 6, 2020.

The JPO granted protection of the opposed mark and published it for opposition on May 25, 2021.


Opposition by GUCCI

Italian high-end luxury fashion house, GUCCI filed an opposition with the JPO on July 26, 2021, and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xv), and (xix) of the Trademark Law due to similarity and likelihood of confusion with famous fashion brand “GUCCI”.

GUCCI claimed the opposed mark was sought with malicious intention to free-ride goodwill and reputation in a manner of hiding the lower part of the term “CUGGL” by a pink painted line to the extent consumers could recognize it as if “GUCCI”. In fact, the registrant promotes T-shirts bearing the opposed mark with the most part of the term hidden.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted a remarkable degree of popularity and reputation of the opponent’s “GUCCI” mark.

In the meantime, the Board did not find a resemblance between “GUCCI” and “CUGGL” from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view. Due to a low degree of similarity of the mark, the Board had no reason to believe that relevant consumers would misconceive a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark from GUCCI or any entity systematically or economically connected to the opponent.

Assuming a low degree of similarity of the mark and less likelihood of confusion, the Board can’t find a reasonable ground to admit the applicant had a malicious intention to free-ride goodwill and reputation of GUCCI and do harm to the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations and decided the opposed mark was valid.

BEYOND MEAT defeats “Beyond Meat Burger”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Beyond Meat Inc. and canceled TM Reg no. 6197193 for wordmark “Beyond Meat Burger” by free-riding on the business reputation of “BEYOND MEAT”.

[Opposition case no. 2020-900023, Gazette issued date: July 30, 2021]

Beyond Meat Burger

Opposed mark, consisting of a wordmark “Beyond Meat Burger” written in a Japanese katakana character (see below), was filed by a Japanese individual on July 23, 2018, for use on ‘meat products’ in class 29 and ‘clothing’ in class 25.

Subsequently, the applicant deleted the designated goods in class 29.

The mark was registered on November 15, 2019, and published for opposition on December 10, 2019.


BEYOND MEAT

Beyond Meat Inc., a US food processing company that specializes in providing plant-based meat, filed an opposition against the “Beyond Meat Burger” mark with the JPO on January 24, 2020, before the lapse of a two-month statutory period for the opposition.

In the opposition brief, Beyond Meat argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

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.

It is interpreted that the “famous mark” under the article does not require a high reputation among Japanese consumers. If domestic consumers recognize such a reputation in foreign countries, it will suffice.

Beyond Meat alleged that the “BEYOND MEAT” mark has been well known for plant-based meat substitutes by the opponent to meat distributors as well as US consumers (It should be noted that Beyond Meat has yet to launch the business in Japan as of now). It is obvious that the opposed mark is confusingly similar to “BEYOND MEAT”. Presumably, the opposed party must have filed the opposed mark with a fraudulent intention to prevent registration of the “BEYOND MEAT” mark in Japan and gain unjust enrichment by doing so.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted that the “BEYOND MEAT” mark has acquired a remarkable degree of reputation among US consumers as a source indicator of plant-based meat substitutes by Beyond Meat Inc. even before the application date of the opposed mark

The Board assessed the opposed mark is confusingly similar to “BEYOND MEAT”. Relevant consumers with an ordinary care would see the term “Beyond Meat” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark because the consumers get familiar with the English word “Burger.”

A fact that the opposed party initially designated ‘meat products’ implies the applicant’s intention to use the opposed mark on the goods that are closely associated with meat substitutes. If so, the Board had a reasonable ground to believe the opposed mark was filed with an intention to take advantage of goodwill and business reputation associated with Beyond Meat’s tradename and trademark.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO decided to retroactively cancel the opposed mark “Beyond Meat Burger” in contravention of Article 4(1)(xix).