TM Opposition: Claude Monet vs Monet Design

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with ACADEMIE DES BEAUX-ARTS, an owner of Musée Marmottan Monet, and decided to cancel Japanese TM Registration no. 6245564 for a composite mark containing literal elements “Monet Design” in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) of the Japan Trademark Law.

[Opposition case no. 2020-900171, Gazette issued date: October 29, 2021]

TM Reg no. 6245564

The opposed mark (see below) was sought for registration by a Japanese individual on various goods and services in class 16, 20, 25, 27, 35, 41, 42, and 45 on February 1, 2019.

The JPO granted protection on March 27, 2020, and published for opposition on May 12, 2020.


Opposition by ACADEMIE DES BEAUX ARTS

On July 10, 20210, before the lapse of a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, ACADEMIE DES BEAUX-ARTS, an owner of Musée Marmottan Monet, filed an opposition. The opponent argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing IR 958197 for the wordmark “CLAUDE MONET” (see below).

Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Law prohibits any mark likely to cause damage to the social and public interest and disrupt the order of fair competition from registration. Trademark Examination Guidelines set forth any sign created after “the Name of a Historical Person or Name of a Well-Known or Famous Deceased Person” shall be objectionable under the article.

TEG provides six factors to apply the article.

  1. Popularity of the well-known or famous historical person;
  2. Acceptance of the name of the historical person among the nation or region;
  3. Availability of the name of the historical person;
  4. Relationship between the availability of the name of the historical person and the designated goods or services;
  5. Circumstance, purpose, or reason of the application; and
  6. Relationship between the historical person and the applicant.

JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board found the late Claude Monet has been a world-famous French painter known even among the general public in Japan. There is no doubt that the public at the sight of the word “Monet” would conceive the painter. Because of it, “Monet” has been highly recognized as an abbreviation of the late Claude Monet.

Besides, it is certain that the opponent inherits the property and paintings of Claudia Monet. In view of activities of the opponent as a public organization to exhibit, manage, and promote the paintings in France as well as other countries, the word “Monet” has not only played a significant role in the business field of sightseeing and art but also acquired substantial value as public property of France.

As for the opposed mark, the Board does not find a reason to believe that the word “Monet” inseparably combines with other elements. If so, relevant consumers are likely to consider the word “Monet” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to cancel the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii).

To whom does “Mary Poppins” return?

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an invalidation petition by Disney Enterprises, Inc. against Japanese TM Reg no. 5710595 for the wordmark “Mary Poppins” by finding that “Mary Poppins” has not been well known as a source indicator of Disney.

[Invalidation case no. 2019-890040, Gazette issued date: June 25, 2021]

TM Registration no. 5710595

Disputed mark, consisting of the word “Mary Poppins” in standard character (see below), was applied for registration on February 28, 2014, in respect of caring for babies [excluding services provided at facilities]; babysitting in class 45.

Without confronting refusal during the substantive examination, the disputed mark was registered on October 17, 2014.

The applicant of the disputed mark, Mary Poppins Inc., has apparently offered babysitting services in Kobe, Japan since its establishment in 1988.

Screen capture from https://www.marypoppins.co.jp/en/

Petition for invalidation by Disney

Japan Trademark Law has a provision to retroactively invalidate trademark registration for certain restricted reasons specified under Article 46 (1), provided that the interested party files an invalidation petition within a five-year statute of limitations.

Disney filed a petition for invalidation against the disputed mark on July 18, 2019, three months before the lapse of the limitations period, and argued the mark unquestionably freerides on the world-famous Walt Disney film “Mary Poppins” and thus relevant consumers would associate the disputed mark with Disney when used on the services in question. If so, it shall be invalid in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Law prohibits any mark likely to cause damage to public order or morality from registration.

Article 4(1)(xv) provides that a mark shall not be registered where it is likely to cause confusion with other business entities ’ well-known goods or services, to the benefit of brand owners and users.

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.


Mary Poppins, an American musical film, released in 1964, features the now-iconic screen debut of Julie Andrews. A children’s classic, Mary Poppins is considered to be among the finest of Walt Disney’s productions based on the original books by P.L Travers.


JPO Decision

The JPO Invalidation Board admitted a certain degree of reputation and popularity of “Mary Poppins” as the title of the beloved Walt Disney film and the name of the main character of the film.

In the meantime, the Board questioned if “Mary Poppins” has played a distinctive role in indicating a source of Disney’s goods or services. A mere fact that goods featuring the Walt Disney films and its characters are merchandised at the Tokyo Disney Resort and Disney Shops in Japan is insufficient to prove Disney has used “Mary Poppins” as a source indicator to identify their business, the Board found.

In so far as “Mary Poppins” has not been recognized as a source indicator, but a title of the world-famous Walt Disney film or the main character of the film, it is unlikely that relevant consumers would consider the disputed mark “Mary Poppins” used on the services in question coming from Disney or entities systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

The Board also referred to the precedent court cases that ruled invalidation of the trademark “Anne of Green Gables” and “Tarzan” in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii). Contrary to these films, the Board could find no authorized activity to protect or preserve the film or original books of “Mary Poppins” as cultural heritage and prohibit unlicensed use by the private sector. If so, it is inadequate to treat the case equally with them. The Board held that the disputed mark shall not be likely to cause damage to public order or morality.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO decided the disputed mark shall remain valid and dismissed the invalidation entirely.

“MONA LISA” May Smile At You

In a recent decision, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) disaffirmed the examiner’s refusal and accepted for registration of the world-famous painting, ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci.
[Appeal case no. 2020-9377, Gazette issued date: May 28, 2021]


“MONA LISA”

Disputed mark, consisting of a wordmark “MONA LISA” written in a Japanese katakana character (see below), was filed by a Japanese company, Negibito Co., Ltd on February 20, 2019, for use on ‘edible live aquatic animals; edible unprocessed seaweeds; fresh vegetables; fresh fruits; live mammals, fish [not for food], birds and insects and other goods in class 32.

Apparently, the company uses the disputed mark on specially grown scallions with a high sugar content of more than 20 degrees to be sold at JPY10,000 (USD92) for one stalk!


Article 4(1)(vii)

JPO examiner raised her objection by stating that since “MONA LISA” has been known for the world-famous painting, ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci, it shall contravene the generally accepted sense of morality or the international faith if registered. Accordingly, the disputed mark shall be rejected in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Law prohibits any mark likely to cause damage to public order or morality from registration.

Trademark Examination Guidelines 42.107.05 provides seven criteria to take into consideration to determine if a mark, consisting of valuable cultural products (works of art), shall contravene the article.

(i) Famousness of the cultural products
(ii) Recognition of the cultural products among citizens or local residents
(iii) State of use of the cultural products
(iv) Relationship between the state of use of the cultural products and the designated goods or services
(v) Background, purpose, and reason for filing an application
(vi) Relationship between the cultural products and the applicant
(vii) Authorized entity that manages and owns the cultural products (if any)

The applicant filed an appeal against the refusal on July 3, 2020.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Appeal Board assessed seven criteria pertinent to the works of art “MONA LISA” in accordance with the Trademark Examination Guideline.

The Board admitted a remarkable degree of recognition and reputation of “MONA LISA” among the general public in Japan as the world-famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci.

In the meantime, the Board questions if the goods in question are closely related to works of art and art exhibitions that the term “MONA LISA” has been used.

Besides, the Board found that the term is not used to promote or develop certain regions associated with the painting in relation to the goods in question.

Based on the foregoing, the Board held that it is unlikely that registration of the disputed mark would constitute a genuine and sufficiently serious threat to a fundamental interest of society when used in connection with the goods in class 32. Therefore, the disputed mark “MONA LISA” shall not be refused on the basis of the public policy exception provided for in Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Law.

Never Register “BOND GIRL” Never Again

In a recent administrative decision, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Danjaq, LLC, and declared invalidation of a wordmark “BOND GIRL” written in a Japanese katakana character in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Law.

[Invalidation case no. 2019-890044, Gazette issued date: April 24, 2020]

Disputed mark

“BOND GIRL” written in a Japanese katakana character (see below) was filed to JPO on the service of ‘arranging, conducting, and organization of seminars’ in class 41 by a Japanese individual on November 4, 2015, and registered on December 2, 2016.

Opposition & Invalidation petition by Danjaq, LLC

On March 9, 2017, just before the lapse of a two-months opposition period, Danjaq, LLC, the holding company responsible for the copyright and trademarks to the characters, elements, and other material related to James Bond on screen, filed an opposition to the disputed mark.

However, since Danjaq failed to supplement arguments for opposition within a statutory period, the JPO decided to dismiss the opposition entirely.

On August 2, 2019, Danjaq filed a petition for invalidation and argued disputed mark shall be invalid in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xv) and (xix) of the Trademark Law by citing world-famous cinematic heroine “BOND GIRL” in the James Bond film series “007”.

Article 4(1)(vii)

Article 4(1)(vii) of the Trademark Law prohibits any mark likely to cause damage to public order or morality from registration.

In the petition, Danjaq argued “BOND GIRL” has appeared as a love interest of James Bond in the movies for over 55 years since 1962. Due to frequent appearances in magazines, other public media, and various events pertinent to the Japes Bond movie, the name and sign of “BOND GIRL” has been well-known for cinematic heroine in association with the film series “007”.

If so, it is presumed that the applicant intentionally applied disputed mark with an aim to monopolize the term. Since the applicant does not have any legal interest with Danjaq, a legitimate owner of trademarks and copyrights pertaining to the 007 movies, it must impermissibly cause not only damage to public order but the disorder in domestic and foreign trade.

Invalidation Board decision

The Invalidation Board initially noted that the James Bond film series “007” is world-widely known motion pictures. From the produced evidence, the cinematic heroine “Bond girl” has regularly attracted audiences through screens, magazines, and promotional events of the movie. The sign “BONG GIRL” had further extensive marketing and licensing to companies in vastly different product categories, not only with products associated with the motion pictures, e.g. nails, cosmetics, dolls, cards, calendars, and others. Relevant consumers at the sight of the disputed mark would conceive nothing but the cinematic heroine in the film. The Board, therefore, considered that “BOND GIRL” has become worldly famous as a cinematic heroine that appeared in the “007” film series.

The Board continued in analyzing efforts made by Danjaq to enhance the commercial value of “BOND GIRL” by means of trademark registrations in various jurisdictions and licensing to different product categories.

The Board finally concluded that taking into account the foregoing, since it appears that the applicant makes less contribution to establishing reputation and goodwill on “BOND GIRL”, it shall be impermissible for the applicant to monopolize the term on service in question.

To prevent damage to public order, the disputed mark shall be retroactively invalidated in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii).

In the meantime, surprisingly, the Board denied Danjaq’s allegation regarding a likelihood of confusion because “BOND GIRL” is just famous for cinematic heroine, not as a source indicator of Danjaq.