New Balance Unsuccessful Opposition against “nyan balance” mark

On December 22, 2023, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by New Balance Athletics, Inc. against TM Reg no. 6669617 for the “nyan balance” mark with a landing cat device due to dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with “NEW BALANCE”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900073]


“nyan balance”

A Japanese individual applied a composite mark consisting of the word “nyan balance” and a landing cat device (see below) for use on apparel, headgear, footwear, sports shoes, and sportswear in class 25 with the JPO on May 26, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-65756).

“Nyan” is known as the sound cats make in Japan. Because of it, “nyan balance” reminds us of a combination of cat sounds and “balance”.

The JPO examiner allowed registration of the opposed mark on February 7, 2023 without raising any objection, and published it for post-grant opposition on February 15, 2023.


Opposition by NEW BALANCE

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, New Balance Athletics, Inc. filed an opposition against the “nyan balance” mark on March 31, 2023.

NEW BALANCE argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the NEW BALANCE brand in relation to apparels and shoes, and a close resemblance between the literal portion “nyan balance” of opposed mark and famous brand “NEW BALANCE” to the extent that relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of the goods in question bearing the opposed mark with “New Balance”.

In the opposition, NEW BALANCE pointed out a fact that the applicant once sought registration of a mark containing famous “NB” logo (see below. TM App 2022-65755) with the JPO. Since he did not make a response to the examiner’s rejection that asserted a likelihood of confusion with NEW BALANCE and a malicious intent to obtain unjustifiable benefits by using the similar mark to famous “NB” logo, the opponent alleged the applicant must have had a bad faith in filing the opposed mark.


JPO decision

Astonishingly, the JPO Opposition Board did not admit a high degree of popularity and reputation of “NEW BALANCE” brand as a source indicator of the opponent by finding that the opponent did not submit detail and sufficient evidence, such as sales record, advertisement and sales promotion, to demonstrate famousness of the cited mark objectively.

Besides, the Board negated the similarity between the marks by stating that:

From the appearance, the difference in the prefix of literal elements, “nyan” and “NEW” would suffice for relevant consumers to distinguish them. Therefore, even though the term “nyan balance” is considered as a prominent portion of the opposed mark, both marks are sufficiently distinguishable in appearance.

Phonetically, “nyan balance” is easily distinguishable from “NEW BALANCE” because of the difference in the first sound given both marks just consist of six sounds respectively.

Conceptually, since both marks do not give rise to any specific meaning, it is not possible or adequate to find similarity in concept.

By virtue of a low degree of similarity, the Board found relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse or associate the source of the goods bearing the opposed mark with “NEW BALANCE” and any entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent.

Provided that the opponent failed to demonstrate famousness of “NEW BALANCE” brand, the Board has no reason to believe the applicant filed the opposed mark with a malicious intent to free-ride on the opponent’s reputation and goodwill.

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

Trademark dispute over Elk design

In an advisory opinion on trademark dispute over elk design, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with MOZ Sweden AB.
[Case no. 2023-600017, decide on December 15, 2023]


TM Reg no. 6582775

MOZ Sweden AB, an owner of Japanese trademark registration no. 6582775 for the MOZ mark with its iconic elk design (see below) in relation to electric blankets and other goods of class 11, attempted to stop distribution of wearable electric blankets (“disputed goods”) depicting 20 or 28 elk-motif silhouettes (“disputed design”) on the entire surface by NAKAMURA Co., Ltd.

Allegedly, MOZ sent a C&D letter to NAKAMURA on November 29, 2022 and demanded immediate cease and disposal of the wearable blankets based by claiming trademark infringement. NAKAMURA, for the purpose of settling the dispute, asked the JPO for an advisory opinion on April 14, 2023.

A screen capture from amazon.co.jp

Advisory Opinion Procedure

The Japan Trademark Law has provision for the Japan Patent Office to give advisory opinions about the scope of trademark right upon request under Article 28.

Proceedings of the advisory opinion system are almost the same as invalidation trials. Upon request from either party, the JPO appoints three examiners and orders the opposite party to answer the request in writing. Board seldom holds an oral hearing to investigate the case. In general, all proceedings are based on written statements and documentary evidence.

The advisory opinion by JPO does not have a binding effect, unlike the judicial decision. Accordingly, less than 10 trademark cases have been lodged with the JPO to seek the advisory opinion annually.


JPO Advisory Opinion

The JPO provided its advisory opinion to the case and decided the disputed goods would not be within the scope of right for TM Reg no. 6582775 by stating that:

  1. Unquestionably, the literal portion “MOZ” is dissimilar to the disputed design from visual, aural and conceptual points of view.
  2. Comparing the MOZ elk design with that of the disputed design, even though they share the same “elk” motif, there is a clear difference in the shape of the antlers, the outline of the face, the presence or absence of ears, eyes, and mouth. These differences give rise to a distinctive impression in the mind of viewers. Because of it, two designs are sufficiently distinguishable from appearance.
  3. Being that both “MOZ” and the elk design are respectively dissimilar to the disputed design, there is no reason to believe that the disputed goods shall be within the scope of trademark right and subject to enforcement even if both goods are identical.

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.

French fashion magazine “ELLE” Lost in trademark opposition against “elLle HOTEL”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by HACHETTE FILIPACCHI PRESSE, Société Anonyme (FR) against Japanese TM Reg no. 6681746 for the “elLle HOTEL” mark in class 43 by finding dissimilarity to and less likelihood of confusion with French fashion magazine “ELLE”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900123, decided on November 29, 2023]


elLle HOTEL

Opposed mark, consisting of a stylized term “elLle” placed above strikethrough word “HOTEL” (see below), was filed on November 25, 2022, for use on hotel and restaurant services in class 43 by Yugen Kaisha Yamaguchi Jitsugo, a Japanese company.

The JPO granted registration of the mark on March 16, 2023, and published it for post-grant opposition on March 27, 2023.

According to the allegations, the applicant newly opened a fashion hotel named “HOTEL elLle” in 2022.

captured from https://www.hotel-ellle.com/

Opposition by ELLE

On May 26, 2023, before the lapse of a two-month opposition period, HACHETTE FILIPACCHI PRESSE, Société Anonyme (hereinafter referred to as HFP), a French company responsible for the well-known women’s magazine ELLE, which had the largest readership of any fashion magazine in the world, with culturally specific editions published on six continents in the early 21st century, filed an opposition to the “elLle HOTEL” mark.

In the opposition, HFP contended that the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark that is identical with, or similar to, any senior registered mark.

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 the brand owner and users.

HFP argued that the opposed mark is similar to HFP’s earlier registrations for the mark “ELLE” and relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive the opposed mark with HFP or any business entity systematically or economically connected with the opponent due to a remarkable reputation of opponent’s fashion brand “ELLE” and the close resemblance between the opposed mark and “ELLE”.


JPO decision

The Board admitted the “ELLE” mark has become famous among relevant consumers and traders as a source indicator of the opponent in connection with magazines, online magazines as well as fashion and daily items.

In the meantime, the Board questioned whether the mark “ELLE” has acquired a certain recognition in relation to the service in question.

Besides, the Board found the literal portion “elLle” would play a significant role in indicating a source of the opposed mark when used in the services of class 43. However, the Board held the term “elLle” shall be assessed in its entirety, and there is no reason to find relevant consumers consider it as “elle”. If so, the opposed mark is dissimilar to the “ELLE” mark even though respective concept is not to be compared.

Taking into consideration a low degree of similarity between the marks, the Board had no reason to believe that relevant consumers would mistakenly assume the opposed goods originate from the same source as or are associated with, the opponent when used on services in question.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to dismiss the opposition entirely.

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.

JPO decision to trademark dissimilarity, Unbelievable or Believable?

On November 9, 2023, the JPO Appeal Board reversed the examiner’s rejection to TM Application no. 2021-98849 for word mark “ADEAM/ICHI” by finding dissimilarity to earlier trademark registrations for word mark “ICHI”.
[Appeal case no. 2022-19409]


Earlier TM registrations “ICHI”

Following trademarks have been effectively registered since 2015 at the latest.

  • TM Reg no. 4736544 (soaps and detergent, incense, cosmetics in class 3)
  • TM Reg no. 5756228 (clothing, waistbands, belts [clothing] in class 25)
  • TM Reg no. 5991461 (bags and pouches, wallets, umbrella, walking sticks in class 18)

Junior mark “ADEAM/ICHI”

On August 6, 2021, FOXY Corporation filed a word mark consisting of “ADEAM” with larger roman-font and “ICHI” with smaller gothic-font in two lines (see below) for use on various goods and services in classes 3,14,16,18,24,25, and 35.

The JPO examiner rejected the applied mark due to a conflict with the earlier TM registrations for the mark “ICHI” owned by other entity based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law on September 6, 2022.

Subsequently, the applicant filed an appeal against the rejection on December 1, 2022 and disputed dissimilarity of mark.


JPO Appeal Board decision

To my surprise, the Appeal Board found the applied mark is dissimilar to the cited marks and decided to cancel the examiner’s rejection by stating that:

Since the term “ICHI” of the applied mark is placed just beneath the term “ADEAM” in the middle about a quarter of the font size, from appearance, the term “ADEAM” occupies a large portion of the applied mark in its entirety. Thus, relevant consumers would have an impression that the term “ADEAMN” is considered as a dominant portion to identify a source of goods and service.

Besides, the term “ADEAM” is apparently a coined word. The term “ICHI” also does not give rise to a clear meaning. Therefore, conceptually there is no particular difference in assessing distinctiveness of respective term.

The Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers would focus only on the portion “ICHI” of the applied mark as a source indicator by separating the dominant element “ADEAM”.

If so, it shall not be permissible to compare the literal portion “ICHI” of the applied mark with the cited marks.

In this respect, the examiner made an error in applying Article 4(1)(xi).

Based on the foregoing, the Board granted registration of the applied mark

ANYTIME FITNESS Unsuccessful Opposition against “anytime 24” mark in relation to fitness service

On October 17, 2023, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition claimed by Anytime Fitness Franchisor LLC against TM Reg no. 6630608 for the mark “anytime 24” in class 41 due to dissimilarity and unlikelihood of confusion with “ANYTIME FITNESS”.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900541]

“anytime 24”

Opposed mark, consisting of “anytime”, “24” and a clock device (see below), was filed by ShinMaywa Industries, Ltd. for use on various services in classes 35, 37, 39 and 41, including sports instruction services; arranging, conducting and organization of seminars relating to sports; production of videotape file in the field of sports; providing electronic publications relating to sports on October 14, 2021.

The JPO granted protection of the “anytime 24” mark on October 19, 2022, and published it for a post-grant opposition on October 31, 2022.


Opposition by ANYTIME FITNESS

Anytime Fitness Franchisor LLC (AFF), an operator of the fastest-growing fitness club “ANYTIME FITNESS” franchise in the world, with more than 4 million members at more than 4,800 gyms on all seven continents, filed an opposition on December 29, 2022.

AFF argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (viii), (x), (xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law on the grounds that “ANYTIME FITNESS” has become famous among relevant consumers as a source indicator of the fitness gym opening 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the term “ANYTIME” is a dominant portion of cited mark (TM Reg nos. 5284268 and 5742766) in connection with fitness-related services in class 41. If so, the consumers are likely to confuse the source of the opposed mark with AFF when used on fitness-related services because of close resemblance between the opposed mark and “ANYTIME FITNESS”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board found the opposed mark, from its configuration, gives rise to a pronunciation and meaning of “anytime” because the digit “24” is inherently descriptive.

In the meantime, the Board held the cited mark has a pronunciation of “ANYTIMIE FITNESS” and does not give rise to any specific meaning as a whole. Even if the word “FITNESS” lacks distinctiveness in relation to fitness-related services, the Board has a reason to believe the cited mark shall be assessed in its entirety by virtue of a tight combination with other elements.

When it comes to compare a dominant portion “anytime” of the opposed mark with “ANYTIME FITNESS”, the consumers are unlikely to confuse the source of two marks from visual, phonetical and conceptual points of view, the Board said.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO concluded dissimilarity of mark and unlikelihood of confusion, and decided to dismiss the opposition entirely.

Japan IP High Court ruled “athlete Chiffon” descriptive in relation to hotel and restaurant services.

On October 12, 2023, the Japan IP High Court affirmed the JPO refusal decision to TM App no. 2021-93231 for word mark “athlete Chiffon” in class 43 due to a lack of distinctiveness.

[Court case no. Reiwa5(Gyo-ke)10038]

JPO refusal decision

Disputed mark, consisting of two words “athlete” and “Chiffon” in standard character, was filed for use of providing temporary accommodation; accommodation bureaux services; providing foods and beverages in class 43 with The Japan Patent Office (JPO) on July 27, 2021 (TM App no. 2021-93231).

The JPO examiner rejected the mark based on Article 3(1)(iii) and Article 4(1)(xvi) of the Japan Trademark Law by stating that relevant consumers at sight of the disputed mark would merely conceive of a restaurant to provide Chiffon cakes for athletes and it will cause misrepresentation of a particular quality of service when used on other services.

Applicant filed an appeal against the examiner’s rejection. However, the JPO Appeal Board sustained the examiner’s findings and decided to refuse the disputed mark on March 22, 2023.


Appeal to the IP High Court

On April 20, 2023, the applicant filed a lawsuit to dispute registrability of the disputed mark with the IP High Court and asked the court to annul the JPO decision based on the facts that the JPO has allowed registration of lots of trademarks containing the term “athlete”, but none of them restrict its usage of designated goods or services “for athletes”. Cake shops containing a term “Chiffon” in their trade name have even delt with cakes other than chiffon. If so, the JPO obviously made an error in denying distinctiveness of respective term “athlete” and “Chiffon”. Because of it, the JPO refusal decision shall be cancelled.


IP High Court decision

From the produced evidence, the IP High Court found that, in the industry of foods and beverages, terms such as “athlete cake” and “athlete pan cakes” are commonly used to indicate special goods and service for athletes. If so, relevant consumers and traders would consider a term consisting of “athlete” followed by generic word of goods or service as an indication to specify the target of the goods or service (for athletes). “Chiffon” is known in the industry as a term to indicate ‘food that is made light by adding the clear part of eggs that have been beaten’ and commonly used in conjunction with other descriptive term, e.g., “Choco chiffon”, “banana chiffon”, “Valentine chiffon”.

Under the circumstances, the court has a reason to believe that relevant consumers would consider the term “athlete Chiffon” as a mere descriptive indication of the restaurant to provide chiffon (cakes) for athletes when used in relation to the service in question.

Screen capture from “athlete Chiffron” facebook page

A fact that several cake shops containing a term “Chiffon” in their trade name have delt with cakes other than chiffon is irrelevant to the case given the consumers conceive of chiffon cake at sight of the term “athlete Chiffon” when used on restaurant service.

Based on the foregoing, the court held the JPO did not make any error in finding facts and applying trademark law and thus the disputed mark shall be unregistrable under Article 3(1)(iii) and 4(1)(xvi).

Trademark Opposition Case: “DROP” vs “THE DROP”

In a trademark opposition disputing similarity between “DROP” and “THE DROP”, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided to cancel TM Reg no. 6556243 for the mark “DROP” in class 35 due to similarity to IR no. 1258281 “THE DROP” in class 20 owned by Fritz Hansen A/S.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900306, decided on October 2, 2023]

Opposed mark “DROP”

Massdrop, Inc., a US e-commerce company, filed trademark application for word mark “DROP” in standard character for use on retail or wholesales services for various categories of goods including furniture in class 35 on October 9, 2018 (TM App no. 2018-126535).

The mark was registered on May 16, 2022 (TM Reg no. 6556243) and published for post-grant opposition on May 24, 2022.


Opposition by Fritz Hansen A/S

Fritz Hansen A/S, renowned Danish manufacturer of Scandinavian-style furniture, took a partial opposition action against the “DROP” mark on July 26, 2022 and claimed cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law due to similarity to earlier IR no. 1258281 “THE DROP” for use on furniture in class 20 owned by the opponent.

Fitz Hasen argued “THE” is merely a definite article with no particular meaning for Japanese citizens with ordinary care. It commonly happens in Japan that consumers do not pay attention to definite article in the prefix where it is followed by other words. For example, “THE BEATLES” is called just as “BEATLES”. The Japanese title of the movie “The Lord of the Rings” does not include “THE”. Under the circumstance, relevant consumers would consider “DROP” as a prominent portion of the cited mark. Therefore, the opposed mark shall be similar to the cited mark. Besides, the goods “furniture” in class 20 is deemed similar to retail or wholesale services for furniture in class 35.

If so, the opposed mark should be canceled in relation to “retail or wholesale services for furniture” of class 35 under Article 4(1)(xi).


JPO decision

In the decision, the JPO Opposition Board mentioned “THE” is a definite article that functions to specify the following noun, however is usually not translated into Japanese. A basic English word “THE”, familiar among general public in Japan, is less distinctive as a source indicator per se. It is quite possible that relevant consumers and traders at the sight of the cited mark would highly focus on the term “DROP” of the cited mark.

Therefore, the Board has a reason to believe the cited mark gives rise to a pronunciation of “DROP” and a meaning ‘a small round-shaped amount of liquid’.

If so, the opposed mark has the same sound and concept with the cited mark.

A mere difference in appearance is insufficient to find dissimilarity of mark since the opposed mark consists of the same alphabets with “DROP” of the cited mark.

Also, the Board found “furniture” in class 20 shall be deemed similar to “retail or wholesale services for furniture” in class 35 by taking into consideration commercial channels, suppliers and consumers of respective goods and services.

Based on the foregoing, the Board sided with Fritz Hansen A/S and decided a partial cancellation of the opposed mark in relation to “retail or wholesale services for furniture”.

JPO Declared Cancellation of Trademark “BORDEAUX WAVE” on Cosmetics

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) decided to cancel TM Reg no. 6576001 for word mark “BORDEAUX WAVE” in relation to cosmetics due to contrary to public policy and accepted principles of morality.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900374, decided on September 1, 2023]

Opposed mark “BORDEAUX WAVE”

KAO Corporation, a major Japanese company providing a broad range of household products such as cosmetics and detergents, filed a trademark application for the wordmark “BORDEAUX WAVE” with its transliteration written in Japanese Katakana character (see below) for use on soaps and detergents, cosmetics, perfume and flavor materials, incense in class 3 with the JPO on December 22, 2021.

Apparently, the mark is used as a name for one of the RMK lipstick colors distributed by KAO’s subsidiary company.

The JPO examiner did not raise any objection to the “BORDEAUX WAVE” mark and granted protection on June 2, 2022.


Trademark Opposition

On August 31, 2022, before the lapse of a two-month statutory period counting from the publication date, INSTITUT NATIONAL DE L’ORIGINE ET DE LAQUALITE and CONSEIL INTERPROFESSIONNEL DUVIN DE BORDEAUX as joint opponents filed an opposition against the BORDEAUX WAVE mark and claimed the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) of the Japan Trademark Law.

The opponents argued that the opposed mark misleads as to the origin of the goods in question on which it is used since the GI “Bordeaux” has been widely known for an origin of French Wine. Besides, the opposed mark severely harms to fame and aura of prestigious wine constituted under the strict control of domicile of origin.


Article 4(1)(vii)

Article 4(1)(vii) prohibits any mark likely to offend public order and morals from registering.

Trademark Examination Guidelines sets forth criteria for the article and samples.

  1. Trademarks that are “likely to cause damage to public order or morality” are, for example, the trademarks that fall under the cases prescribed in (1) to (5) below.

(1) Trademarks which are, in composition per se, characters or figures, signs, three-dimensional shapes or colors or any combination thereof, or sounds that are unethical, obscene, discriminative, outrageous, or unpleasant to people. It is judged whether characters, figures, signs, three-dimensional shapes or colors or any combination thereof, or sounds are unethical, discriminative or unpleasant to people, with consideration given to their historical backgrounds, social impacts, etc. from a comprehensive viewpoint.

(2) Trademarks which do not have the composition per se as prescribed in (1) above but are liable to conflict with the public interests of the society or contravene the generally-accepted sense of morality if used for the designated goods or designated services.

(3) Trademarks with their use prohibited by other laws.

(4) Trademarks liable to dishonor a specific country or its people or trademarks generally considered contrary to the international faith.

(5) Trademarks whose registration is contrary to the order predetermined under the Trademark Act and is utterly unacceptable for lack of social reasonableness in the background to the filing of an application for trademark registration.

  1. Examples that fall under this item

(i) Trademarks that contain characters such as “university” and are likely to be mistaken for the name of universities, etc. under the School Education Act.

(ii) Trademarks that contain characters such as “士(shi” which are likely to mislead that they represent national qualifications.

(iii) Trademarks of the name of a well-known or famous historical personage which are determined to have the risk of taking a free ride on public measures related to that personage and damage the public interests by inhibiting the performance of such measures.

(iv) Trademarks with figures indicated in a manner that may impair the dignity and honor of national flags (including foreign national flags)

(v) A sound mark related to the services of “medical treatment” which causes people to recognize siren sounds generated by ambulances that are well known in Japan.

(vi) A sound mark which causes people to recognize national anthems of Japan and other countries.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board found in favor of opponents that “BORDEAUX” has acquired a high degree of popularity and reputation among Japanese consumers as a source indicator of wines originated from the Bordeaux district.

Since the opposed mark contains the term “BORDEAUX”, it is undeniable that consumers are likely to connect the opposed mark with BORDEAUX wine or its district even when used on cosmetics and other goods in question. If so, the Board has a reason to believe that the opposed mark free-rides or dilutes lure and image of BORDEAUX wine, and adversely affects domicile of origin strictly controlled by French government. Thus, inevitably the opposed mark may cause disorder to a world of global commerce in a manner inconsistent with international fidelity.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided to cancel the BORDEAUX WAVE mark entirely based on Article 4(1)(vii).