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).

LEGO Triumphs In ‘CATTYLEGO’ Trademark Battle at JPO

LEGO eventually scored a win over PETSWEET CO., Ltd., a Taiwanese company, in a trademark dispute against ‘CATTYLEGO’ thanks to the JPO’s finding a likelihood of confusion with “LEGO” famous for toy brick.
[Invalidation case no. 2018-890084, Gazette issued date: September 25, 2020]

CATTY LEGO

PETSWEEY Co. (派斯威特國際有限公司), Ltd., a Taiwanese company, applied for trademark registration in Japan for the mark consisting of a word “CATTYLEGO” and rectangle device (see below) on June 15, 2016, over toy boxes and chests, dog kennels, fodder racks, pet cushions, pet house in class 20 and toys for pets in class 28.

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) registered the mark on December 2, 2016 (TM Registration no. 5902786) and published for opposition on January 10, 2017.

LEGO

LEGO Juris A/S, the world’s largest Danish toy manufacturer, filed an opposition against the mark ‘CATTYLEGO’ on the final day of a two-month duration for the opposition, and argued it shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law, but in vain. Click here to read more about the opposition.

Subsequently, LEGO lodged a trademark invalidation trial with the JPO on October 31, 2018, based on the same grounds.

JPO Decision

The Invalidation Board did not question a high degree of reputation and popularity of the LEGO trademark as a source indicator of toy brick by finding consecutive promotion of LEGO bricks in Japan for more than five decades, annual sales amounting to over 8 billion yen (Approx. USD 74 million ), its remarkable share in the sector of kids toys, and almost half of preschools in Japan have adopted the bricks for educational purpose.

Given the remarkable reputation of the LEGO mark, the Board held relevant consumers/traders at the sight of the ‘CATTYLEGO’ mark would inevitably conceive the term “LEGO” as a dominant portion. If so, both marks may give rise to a similar sound and concept pertinent to “LEGO”.

The Board also affirmed toy brick and the goods in question are closely associated in view of suppliers, commercial channels, usage, consumers.

Consequently, by taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances, the Board found relevant consumers with an ordinary care would confuse or associate the goods in question bearing the ‘CATTYLEGO’ mark with LEGO or any entity systematically or economically connected with LEGO, and thus the mark shall be invalidated based on Article 4(1)(xv) of the trademark law.

LEGO lost a trademark battle in Japan over the mark CATTYLEGO

LEGO has lost a trademark battle it lodged against PETSWEET Co., Ltd., a Taiwanese company, over its registration of the mark “CATTYLEGO” in Japan.
[Opposition case no. 2017-900077, Gazette issued date: Feb 23, 2018]

 

OPPOSED MARK “CATTYLEGO”

PETSWEEY Co., Ltd., a Taiwanese company, applied for trademark registration in Japan for the mark consisting of a word “CATTYLEGO” and rectangle device (see below in right) on June 15, 2016 by designating toys for pets in class 28. Apparently, PETSWEET Co., Ltd. promotes various categories of cat toys, e.g. Cat Tree, Cart Playground as you can review by accessing their website.

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) admitted registration of the mark on November 15, 2016 and published the gazette under trademark registration no. 5902786 on January 10, 2017.

 

LEGO Trademark

LEGO Juris A/S, the world’s largest Danish toy manufacturer, filed an opposition against the mark CATTYLEGO on the final day of a two-month duration for opposition.

LEGO argued that the mark CATTYLEGO shall be cancelled due to a conflict with the famous LEGO trademark (see above in left) based on Article 4(1)(viii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law.

 

 

BOARD DECISION

The Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and population of the LEGO trademark as a source indicator of opponent in relation to brick toys by taking account of consecutive promotion of LEGO bricks in Japan for more than five decades, annual sales amount over 8 billion yens (Approx. USD 74 million ), its remarkable share in the sector of kids toys, and almost half of preschools in Japan have adopted the bricks for educational purpose.

In the meantime, the Board negated similarity between the CATTYLEGO mark and the LEGO trademark, stating that it is unconvincing to consider “CATTY” descriptive from overall appearance of the opposed mark. If so, opposed mark is unlikely to giver rise to any meaning and pronunciation in association with LEGO bricks or opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded opposed mark shall not subject to Article 4(1)(xi) so long as both marks are dissimilar.

Board also found less likelihood of confusions due to a remote association between toys for pets and brick toys (for kids) in view of different manufacturers, consumers, usage, commercial channel for these goods as well as dissimilarity of the marks.

Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit registration of trademarks which contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof. A term of “Person” is construed to include a legal entity as well as individual. It is obvious that opposed mark contains “LEGO” which corresponds to an abbreviated name of opponent. However, it is noteworthy that the Board, in adopting the article, dismissed opponent’s allegation by stating that opponent failed to demonstrate the use of the LEGO trademark in a manner that relevant consumers would conceive it as an abbreviation of opponent’s name.