Trademark Dispute: Chateau Mouton Rothschild vs MOUTON

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) declared invalidation of TM Reg no. 6090508 for wordmark “MOUTON” in classes 35 and 43 due to a likelihood of confusion with famous mark “Mouton” as a source indicator of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, one of the most famous wine estates in the world.
[Invalidation case no. 2022-890079, decided on January 22, 2024]



TM Reg no. 6090508 “MOUTON”

WALTZ Co., Ltd. filed a trademark application for wordmark “MOUTON” in relation to retail or wholesale services of various foods and drinks (not including wine) of class 35 and restaurant services of class 43 with the JPO on November 17, 2017. The applicant operates a bar and restaurant named “MOUTON” in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

A screen capture from https://www.pub-mouton.com/

The mark was granted protection on September 5, 2018, published for a post-grant opposition on November 13, 2018.


Unsuccessful Opposition

Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. filed an opposition against TM Reg no. 6090508 “MOUTON” on January 15, 2019 and claimed cancellation of the mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) and (xv) of the Trademark Law. However, the JPO Opposition Board decided to dismiss the opposition on September 6, 2019 (Opposition case no. 2019-900012).

Subsequently, to challenge the validity of the trademark registration for the MOUTON mark, Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. filed an invalidation with the JPO on October 7, 2022, a month before the five-year statute of limitations from the registration date was set to lapse. The claimant argued the disputed mark is identical with a well-known abbreviation of the world-famous wine “Chateau Mouton Rothschild”. Besides, in view of close association between wine and the services in question, relevant consumers and traders would confuse a source of the services bearing the mark “MOUTON” with the claimant. If so, the disputed mark shall be invalidated in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law.

WALTZ did not respond to the arguments during the invalidation trial procedure.


JPO Invalidation decision

On January 22, 2024, the JPO Trial Board decided to annul TM Reg no. 6090508 “MOUTON” in relation to all of the retail or wholesale services designated in class 35 and restaurant services in class 43 by stating that:

From the facts revealed by the produced evidence, the Board has a reason to believe that the term “Mouton” has acquired a substantial degree of reputation and popularity among relevant consumers and traders to indicate the world-famous wine and its abbreviation.

Undoubtedly, the disputed mark “MOUTON” shall be similar to the mark “Chateau Mouton Rothschild” from phonetical and conceptual points of view even if there is a distinction in appearance between the marks.

There is a close association between wine and retail or wholesale services of various foods and drinks as well as restaurant services.

If so, relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of the services bearing the disputed mark with the claimant or other business entity systematically or economically connected with them.

Based on the foregoing, the Trial Board found the disputed mark shall be invalidated in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law.

Yves Saint Laurent Failed Opposition against USL monogram

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not support Yves Saint Laurent in their trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6666672 for the “USL” monogram in class 25. The JPO found no similarity or unlikelihood of confusion with the famous “YSL” monogram.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900076, decided on January 18, 2024]


Opposed mark

Marusho hotta Co., Ltd. filed a trademark application for mark consisting of the “USL” monogram and a circle device (see below) in relation to outer clothing of class 25 with the JPO on August 18, 2022.

The applicant uses the mark on knitted wear, pants and caps as a logo of “UN-USELESS” brand.

The JPO examiner, without raising any objections, granted protection of the mark on January 25, 2023. Subsequently, the mark was published for post-grant opposition on February 6, 2023.


Opposition by Yves Saint Laurent

The renowned French luxury fashion house Yves Saint Laurent has filed a trademark opposition with the JPO on April 6, 2023 and claimed cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing their earlier trademark registrations for the famous “YSL” monogram.

Yves Saint Laurent argued the monogram of opposed mark can be recognized a combination of three letters, “Y”, “S” and “L”. If so, the opposed mark has the same sound and spelling with the famous “YSL” monogram. Because of their close resemblance, consumers are likely to confuse a source of the goods bearing the opposed mark with Yves Saint Laurent.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board had a view that relevant consumers with ordinary care would not conceive a combination of three letters, “Y”, “S” and “L” at the sight of the monogram of the opposed mark, but “U”, “S” and “L”.

Based on the finding, the Board held both marks are visually dissimilar by means of clear difference in the initial letter, font design and overall configuration. Aurally, there is a distinction between the ‘u’ and ‘y’ sounds at the beginning, and this contrast significantly affects the overall impression by taking account of a relatively short six-syllable structure. As both marks are meaningless, the concepts are incomparable.

If so, the Board has no reason to believe the opposed mark is similar to the YLS monogram and thus likely to cause confusion with Yves Saint Laurent even when used on the goods in question.

In conclusion, the Opposition Board determined that the opposed mark is not subject to Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) and has therefore decided to dismiss the opposition entirely.

Unsuccessful trademark opposition over LXR Hotels & Resorts by Hilton

In a bid to oppose TM Reg nos. 6668894 “LX RESORT” and 6668893 “LX HOTEL”, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed the oppositions filed by Hilton Worldwide Manage Limited due to dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with Hilton’s earlier trademark registration for “LXR HOTELS & RESORTS”.

[Opposition case nos. 2023-900082 and 2023-900083, decided on December 1, 2023]

Opposed mark

Hack Japan Holdings Co., Ltd. filed trademark applications for wordmark “LX HOTEL” and “LX RESORT” in standard character over services in classes 35 and 43 including hotel services with the JPO on August 29, 2022.

The JPO granted protection of the opposed marks on February 3, 2023, and published it for post-grant opposition on February 13, 2023.


Opposition by Hilton

Hilton Worldwide Manage Limited filed an opposition on April 12, 2023 just before the lapse of two-month opposition period.

Hilton claimed the opposed marks shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier TM Reg no. 6117133 for wordmark “LXR HOTELS & RESORTS”. Given both “LX” and “LXR” imply a meaning of “luxury”, there is a high degree of similarity in meaning.

By taking into consideration the cited mark “LXR HOTELS & RESORTS” has been recognized among consumers of the Hilton hotels, relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of hotel in the name of “LX HOTEL” and “LX RESPRT” with Hilton’s luxury hotels when used on the services in question.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board did not admit a high degree of recognition of the Hilton “LXR HOTELS & RESORTS” among relevant consumers in Japan because of insufficient evidence to find such recognition objectively.

The Board found the opposed marks shall be assessed in its entirety and would not give rise to any specific meaning at all. Obviously, there is no similarity in appearance and sound between two marks. The Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers would consider the term “LX” of the opposed marks as an abbreviation of “luxury”. If so, the opposed marks shall be dissimilar to the cited mark “LXR HOTELS & RESORTS”.

In view of a low degree of similarity, it is unlikely that relevant consumers confuse a source of hotel in the name of “LX HOTEL” and “LX RESORT” with the opponent or any business entity systematically or economically connected with Hilton.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found the oppositions groundless and upheld validity of the opposed marks.

CHANEL defeated in Trademark Opposition against “COCOCHI”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) handed a loss to Chanel SARL in trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6674710 for the “COCOCHI” mark by finding unlikelihood of confusion with “COCO”.

[Opposition case no. 2023-900100 decided on December 7, 2023]

COCOCHI

The opposed mark, consisting of a term “COCOCHI” and the COCO monogram (see below), was filed by COCOCHI COSME CN LIMITED, a UK company, with the JPO for use on cosmetics, perfumery, fragrances, incense, dentifrices, adhesives for affixing false eyelashes and other goods in Class 3 on June 16, 2022.

The JPO admitted registration of the opposed mark on February 24, 2023 and published it for a post-grant opposition on March 6, 2023.


Opposition by CHANEL

On May 8, 2023, CHANEL SARL filed an opposition and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Trademark Law on the grounds that:

  1. Since 1995, the opponent has owned senior trademark registration no. 2704127 for wordmark “COCO” over cosmetics, perfumery, and fragrances, which has unquestionably acquired a remarkable degree of reputation and popularity as a source indicator of the opponent’s cosmetics as well as a nickname or short name of French fashion designer “Gabrielle COCO CHANEL”, the founder of the Chanel brand.
  2. Due to a remarkable reputation of the mark “COCO”, relevant consumers are likely to associate the literal portion “COCO” and the monogram of the opposed mark with Chanel when used on goods in question.
  3. In view of the close resemblance between two marks and goods, presumably, the applicant must have applied the opposed mark for use on cosmetics with prior knowledge of the cited mark and fraudulent intention of free-riding on its reputation.

JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and popularity of “COCO” as a source indicator of the opponent’s perfumery and fragrances among relevant consumers based on substantial use of the cited mark in Japan but questioned its famousness in relation to other cosmetics except for perfumery and fragrances.

The JPO denied the similarity between the opposed mark and “COCO”, stating that the opposed mark shall be taken as a whole in view of a tight combination of its literal element from appearance. If so, the opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning and the Board has no reasonable ground to believe that the opposed mark “COCOCHI” shall be similar to “COCO” from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view.

Given a low degree of similarity between the marks, the Board held the opposed mark is unlikely to cause confusion even when used on perfumery and fragrances.

Assuming that both marks are dissimilar, the Board was not convinced that the applicant aimed for free-riding on the goodwill of Chanel.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations of CHANEL SARL and allowed the opposed mark to remain valid as the status quo.

Pierre Herme Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition against “House of Herme”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed trademark opposition filed by Group Pierre Herme against TM Reg no. 6677566 for mark “House of Herme” in classes 35 and 43 due to dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with “PIERRE HERME”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900110, decided on November 24, 2023]


Opposed mark “House of Herme”

Opposed mark, consisting of the “HH” monogram, a word “House of Herme” and a western style architecture image (see below), was filed for use on retail or wholesale services in relation to clothing, footwear, bags, cosmetics, and others (unrelated to foods) in class 35 and restaurant services in class 43 with the JPO on April 27, 2022.

The JPO granted registration of the mark on March 6, 2023 and published it for post-grant opposition on March 14, 2023.


Opposition by Pierre Herme

Group Pierre Herme filed an opposition with the JPO on May 15, 2023 and argued the opposed mark shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier TM Reg nos. 4275242, 4494401, 4853590, and 5201068 for word mark “PIERRE HERME”. In the opposition, Group Pierre Herme claimed “HERME” has been also known as an abbreviation of “PIERRE HERME”. In view of a remarkable degree of popularity and reputation of “PIERRE HERME”, relevant consumers at sight of the word “House of Herme” of the opposed mark used on services in question would associate it with a world famous pâtissier.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board found “PIERRE HERME” has become famous as a source indicator of the opponent in relation to confectionary. In the meantime, the Board questioned if its abbreviation “HERME” per se has acquired a high degree of recognition among relevant consumers.

The Board held the word “Herme” of the opposed mark would not play a role in indicating a source per se given the word is tightly combined with “House of” to be conceived as a term in its entirety. If so, it is inappropriate to compare a literal element “Herme” of the opposed mark with the cited marks in assessing similarity of mark.

There is clear distinction between the opposed mark and the cited marks “PIERRE HERME” from visual, aural and conceptual points of view.

By taking into consideration a low degree of similarity of mark and association between confectionary and retail or wholesales services and restaurant services, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of the services in questions bearing the opposed mark with “PIERRE HERME”.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO found the opposition groundless and decided validity of the opposed mark.

McDonald Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition against “mac”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with McDonald in opposition against Japanese TM Reg no. 6575774 for stylized wordmark “mac” in class 35 due to dissimilarity to “Mc” and unlikelihood of confusion with McDonald.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900294, decided on August 15, 2023]

Opposed mark “mac”

The opposed mark, consisting of a stylized word “mac” (see below), was filed by Daiya Group Inc. for use on retail services or wholesale services for various goods including, meat, milk, carbonated drinks [refreshing beverages] and non-alcoholic fruit juice beverages, tea, coffee and cocoa in class 35 with the JPO on October 27, 2021.

The applicant has used the opposed mark as a tradename of their drug store “mac”.

Screen capture from Google map

The JPO granted protection of the opposed mark on June 22, 2022 and published it for post-grant opposition on June 30, 2022.


Opposition by McDonald

McDonald International Property Company Limited filed an opposition against the opposed mark on July 20, 2022 with the JPO and claimed cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(x), (xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law based on earlier trademark registrations and various marks used in relation to their business.

McDonald argued that the mark “Mc” has been remarkably famous as a source indicator of the opponent and it gives rise to a same sound with the opposed mark “mac”. If so, relevant consumers would confuse the source of retail services or wholesale services for meat, milk, carbonated drinks [refreshing beverages] and non-alcoholic fruit juice beverages, tea, coffee and cocoa bearing the opposed mark with McDonald due to close resemblance of the marks and relatedness to food business.


JPO decision

The Opposition Board pointed out McDonald has been regularly using the mark “Mc” in a tight combination with other word. Regardless of the fact that consumers are accustomed to call McDonald as “MAC”, there is no evidence to show the opponent has used “MAC” in connection with their business.

By taking account of insufficient evidence to demonstrate substantial recognition of the cited marks, the Board has no reason to admit famousness of the mark “Mc” as a source indicator of McDonald.

In assessing the similarity of mark, the Board found the cited marks are aurally dissimilar to the opposed mark since they are pronounced as “emˈsiː” or “mækˈkæfˈeɪ” in its entirety. Besides, there is no ground to find visual and conceptual similarity of respective mark. If so, the Board believes the opposed mark is clearly dissimilar to the cited marks.

To the extent that there is insufficient evidence to support how the term “MAC” has played a significant role in indicating the source of McDonald, the Board held it unlikely that relevant consumers confuse the opposed mark with McDonald when used on the services in question.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the opposition entirely and decided that the opposed mark “mac” shall remain valid as the status quo.

Jimmy Choo Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition against “CHUU”

On April 10, 2023, the JPO dismissed a trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6523561 for the wordmark “chuu” contested by J. Choo Limited due to the dissimilarity of the mark and unlikelihood of confusion with “Jimmy Choo”.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900189]

Opposed mark “chuu”

PPB Studios Corporation Limited, a Korean fashion and beauty e-commerce company, sought registration of the wordmark “chuu” (see below) for use on apparel in class 25 and retail services for contact lenses, clothing, footwear, and bags in class 35 with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) on March 8, 2021.

The JPO examiner did not raise an objection by citing earlier trademark registration for the stylized mark “CHOO” owned by J. Choo Limited and granted protection on February 28, 2022.


Opposition by Jimmy Choo

The luxury-footwear brand Jimmy Chou, a luxury footwear brand, filed the opposition on May 6, 2022, and contend that the opposed mark “chuu” shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Jimmy Choo argued the opposed mark is similar to earlier registration for his company-owned mark “CHOO” (see below) and is likely to cause confusion with Jimmy Choo because of a close resemblance between the opposed mark and his famous mark, and relatedness of the goods in question with Jimmy Choo’s business.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board questioned the famousness of the cited mark “CHOO” as a source indicator of the luxury footwear brand “Jimmy Choo” from the produced evidence and totality of the circumstances.

Next, the Board assessed the similarity of marks and found that there are distinctions between the opposed mark and the cited marks in terms of lower-case and upper-case letters, the thickness of the letters, the presence or absence of design, and the difference between the word “uu” and the word “OO” in the latter part of the respective mark. The visual impression that these differences give to the overall appearance of the two marks, both of which consist of four letters, is significantly different, and thus both marks are clearly distinguishable in appearance.

The opposed mark gives rise to the sound of “Chu”, while the cited is pronounced “Chu” or “Cho”. If so, both marks share the same pronunciation and are deemed aurally similar.

Both marks are not comparable conceptually because the respective mark does not give rise to any specific meaning at all.

Based on the foregoing, the Board held “Even if the opposed mark and the cited mark are not comparable in conception and share some similarities in sound, since they are significantly different in impression and clearly distinguishable in appearance, the Board has a reason to believe that the similarity in sound would not outweigh the visual difference. Taking all of the above into consideration as a whole, both marks are dissimilar and not likely to cause confusion as to the origin of the goods or services.

Given the cited mark has not acquired a certain degree of recognition as a source indicator of “Jimmy Choo” among relevant consumers in Japan, there is no reason to find a likelihood of confusion when the opposed mark is used on the goods in question.

Based on the above findings, the JPO Opposition Boards did not side with Jimmy Choo and decided the validity of the opposed mark as the status quo.

Dolce & Gabbana Unsuccessful in Blocking Trademark “Ms. dolce”

The Japan Patent Office dismissed a trademark opposition claimed by the Italian luxury firm, Dolce & Gabbana against trademark registration no. 6506687 for the word mark “Ms. dolce” in class 25 by finding a less likelihood of confusion with “Dolce & Gabbana.”

[Opposition case no. 2022-900141, decided on March 23, 2023]

“Ms. dolce”

The opposed mark, consisting of the word “Ms. dolce”, was filed by a Japanese company, BEANS Co., Ltd. for use on footwear in class 25 with the JPO on May 31, 2021 (TM Application no. 2021-066636).

The company promotes women’s pumps bearing the mark “Ms. Dolce” via the Internet.

A capture from Rakuten “AmiAmi” online shop

The JPO admitted registration on January 31, 2022, and published it for post-grant opposition on February 8, 2022.


Opposition by Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana filed an opposition on April 6, 2022, and argued the opposed mark “Ms. dolce” shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law since relevant consumes are likely to confuse the source of footwear bearing the opposed mark with Dolce & Gabbana because of a close resemblance between “Ms. dolce” and the mark “Dolce” that has become famous per se as a source indicator of the opponent and been known for the abbreviation of Domenico Dolce, as an Italian fashion designer and a co-founder of Dolce & Gabbana.

Article 4(1)(xv) is a provision to prohibit registration of a trademark which is likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

Article 4(1)(viii) prohibits registration of trademarks that contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name, or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board did not admit the term “Dolce” per se has become famous as a source indicator of Dolce & Gabbana by finding that given the famous brand “Dolce & Gabbana” has been represented adjacent to the term “Dolce” on their goods, the Board has a reasonable doubt if the term has acquired a certain degree of reputation as a source indicator of the opponent from the produced evidence. Besides, the Board questioned whether “Dolce” has been known as an abbreviation of “Dolce & Gabbana” due to the same reason.

The Board assessed both marks have a low degree of similarity from visual, phonetical, and conceptual points of view by stating:

  1. Relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse the marks in appearance because of the distinction of the letters and configuration that constitute respective marks.
  2. The consumers are clearly able to distinguish two sounds with or without “Ms.”
  3. The opposed mark gives rise to a meaning of a woman named “dolce”. Meanwhile, the cited mark has a meaning of ‘sweet; dessert’ in the Italian language.

If so, even though footwear is closely associated with the opponent business, the Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers would confuse a source of footwear bearing the opposed mark with Dolce & Gabbana by taking into consideration a low degree of similarity of the marks and insufficient evidence to bolster famousness of the cited mark “Dolce”.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii) and (xv).

How to prevent registration of your business name by others

On September 29, 2022, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, a manufacturer of golf equipment known as “PING”, against TM Reg no. 6465154 for wordmark “PingCAP” in classes 9, 35 and 42.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900019]

PingCAP

The opposed mark, consisting of the wordmark “PingCAP” in standard character, was filed by Beijing PingCAP Xingchen Technology and Development Co., Ltd., for use on computer programs and computer-related goods and services in classes 9, 35, and 42 on December 7, 2020 (TM App no. 2020-150919).

The JPO examiner granted protection on October 25, 2021, and published for opposition on November 2, 2021.


Opposition by PING

Karsten Manufacturing Corporation, doing business as Ping, Inc., a manufacturer of golf equipment, better known as “PING” filed an opposition against “PingCAP” on January 21, 2022, and disputed, among other things, the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(viii) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(viii) is a provision to prohibit the registration of trademarks that contain the representation or name of any person, famous pseudonym, professional name, or pen name of another person, or famous abbreviation thereof.

Karsten argued the term “PING” has been a famous abbreviation of Ping, Inc. (US subsidiary), or Ping Golf Japan Co., Ltd. (a Japanese subsidiary) in view of the substantial reputation of the golf brand “PING”.

The article does not require the famousness of the ‘name of any person where a trademark fully contains a business legal name. In other words, any mark containing a full name or business legal name shall be rejected under the article without the consent of the such person or business entity.

In the meantime, where the mark does not contain a full business name, but a part of the business legal name, the article is applicable only where the business entity can prove the famousness of the literal elements contained in the trademark filed by others.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board found that, from the totality of the produced evidence, it is unobvious that the cited mark “PING” has become famous as an abbreviation of Ping, Inc. or Ping Golf Japan Co., Ltd, and decided the opposed mark shall not be subject to Article 4(1)(viii).


As mentioned above, the Japan Trademark Law prohibits the registration of a trademark that contains a full business name without the consent of the business entity even though the name has not become famous.

Where a trademark just contains a portion of a business legal name, it is prohibited only where the portion has become famous to indicate the entity.

LE MANS, Unsuccessful Trademark Race spending more than 24 Hours

On July 29, 2022, the Opposition Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed a trademark opposition filed by AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE L’OUEST (A.C.O.), an owner of the mark “LE MANS”, against TM Reg no. 6374059 for wordmark “Le mans de elegance” on apparels in class 25.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900248]


Le mans de elegance

The opposed mark, consisting of the word “Le mans de elegance” in standard character, was applied for use on clothing, garters, sock suspenders, braces [suspenders] for clothing, waistbands, belts [clothing], footwear, masquerade costumes, sports shoes, clothes for sports in class 25 by a Japanese company named Analogue Co., Ltd. on October 15, 2020.

The JPO granted protection on March 12, 2021, and published for opposition on April 27, 2021.


Opposition by ACO

Opponent, AUTOMOBILE CLUB DE L’OUEST, alleged the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for the LE MANS mark in classes 25.

ACO argued that the mark “LE MANS” is famous to indicate the oldest sports car race “24 hours of Le Mans”. Due to the remarkable reputation of the mark “LE MANS” and the descriptive meaning of the term “de elegance” in relation to apparel, relevant consumers would see the literal element “Le mans” as a prominent portion of the opposed mark. If so, both marks shall be deemed similar from phonetical and conceptual points of view. Besides, there are precedent cases in which the JPO admitted close relatedness between automobile races and clothing. Taking into consideration the above facts, it is likely that relevant consumers would confuse the source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with 24 hours of Le Mans and its organizer, or an entity systematically or economically connected with ACO.


JPO decision

The JPO found “The 24 hours of Le Mans” has been known for a major car race, however, questioned whether the term “LE MANS” has also become famous to indicate the race from the totality of the circumstances and the produced evidence by pointing out a fact that the term “LE MANS” has been frequently used with “24”. Consequently, the Board held the mark “LE MANS” has not acquired a certain degree of reputation and popularity as a source indicator of auto races among relevant consumers in Japan.

The Board assessed the similarity of mark in its entirety and found the opposed mark is dissimilar to the mark “LE MANS” from visual, phonetical, and conceptual points of view by stating that the cited mark gives rise to a meaning of a city in northwestern France.

In view of a low degree of similarity between the marks and recognition of the mark “LE MANS”, the Board has no reason to believe relevant consumers would confuse a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the entire allegations and decided the opposed mark to remain valid as the status quo.