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.

Lous Vuitton lost in a trademark battle over LV monogram

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed a trademark opposition against TM Reg no. 6685241 in class 18 and 25 filed by LOUIS VUITTON MALLETIER due to dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with the famous “LV” monogram.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900138, decided on January 12,2024]


Opposed mark

A Japanese individual filed a mark consisting of “MARU des VINTAGES”, “KYOJI MARUYAMA”, and a monogram-like device (see below) for use on bags, leather products, clothing, footwear and other in class 18 and 25 on July 22, 2022 with the JPO.

Seemingly, the device looks like a motif made by overlapping “V” and other characters, “LI”, “LA” or “M”.

In the course of substantive examination, the JPO examiner raised his objection just to confirm if the applicant has a consent from the person named “KYOJI MARUYAMA”.

Upon confirmation, the examiner granted protection of the mark on March 10, 2023 and the JPO published it for a post-grant opposition on April 7, 2023.


Opposition by Lous Vuitton

On June 7, 2023, just before the lapse of two-month opposition period counting from the publication date, LOUIS VUITTON MALLETIER filed an opposition with the JPO and claimed that the opposed mark shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing IR no. 1127687 for the famous “LV” monogram in classes 18, 25 and others effectively registered in Japan since April 2014.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to prohibit the registration of 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.

Louis Vuitton argued the monogram-like device of opposed mark is confusingly similar to the world-famous “LV” monogram from a visual point of view. If so, relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of the goods in class 18 and 25 bearing the opposed mark with Louis Vuitton even if the opposed mark contains distinctive literal elements, “MARU des VINTAGES”.


JPO decision

The JPO admitted a high degree of reputation and popularity of the LV monogram among relevant consumers as a source indicator of Louis Vuitton. The Opposition Board considered it unreasonable to assess similarity of mark simply by comparing respective mark in its entirety. The Board found the monogram-like device shall be a prominent portion of the opposed mark from visual impression.

However, the Board negated similarity between the device and the LV monogram by stating that:

Even if the device undoubtedly contains the letter “V” in its composition, it is impossible to specify what represents as a whole. Due to the reason, there is clear distinction in configuration, overall impression between two devices. If so, the Board has a reason to believe there is no likelihood of confusion in appearance.

The LV monogram gives rise to a sound of ‘elˈviː’ and a meaning of “Louis Vuitton”. In the meantime, the opposed device would not have any specific sound and meaning. Therefore, it is obvious that two devices are dissimilar from aural and conceptual points of view.

In view of a low degree of similarity between the monogram-like device and the “LV” monogram, difference caused by distinctive literal elements “MARU des VINTAGES”, “KYOJI MARUYAMA” of the opposed mark, the Board found relevant consumers are unlikely to confuse or associate the goods in question bearing the opposed mark with Lous Vuitton.

Based on the foregoing, the Opposition Board concluded the opposition’s arguments groundless and decided to dismiss the entire opposition.

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.

JPO decided trademark “MONO” dissimilar to “MONO+”

In a trademark appeal disputing similarity between “MONO” and “MONO+”, the Appeal Board of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) reversed the examiner’s rejection and found both marks dissimilar and unlikely to cause confusion.

[Appeal case no. 2023-6307, decided on November 1, 2023]

MONO+

Onoya Inc. filed a mark “MONO+” (see below) for use on retail or wholesale services for furniture, joinery fittings, flowers [natural] and trees, kitchen equipment, cleaning tools and washing utensils in class 35 with the JPO on September 11, 2021.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a conflict with earlier TM Reg no. 4533103 for wordmark “MONO” in standard character on goods of food wrapping plastic film for household purposes; garbage bags of paper or plastic for household purposes; hygienic hand tools of paper; towels of paper; table napkins of paper; hand towels of paper; handkerchiefs of paper in class 16 based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to prohibit registration of a junior mark that is deemed identical with, or similar to, an earlier registered mark.

There is criterion that the examiner is checking when assessing the similarity between the marks:

  • visual similarity
  • aural similarity
  • conceptual similarity

and taking into account all these three aspects examiner makes a decision if a mark is similar (at least to some extent) with the earlier mark and if there is a likelihood of confusion for the consumers.


JPO Appeal Board decision

The Board found the applied mark “MONO+” gives rise to a sound of “mono-plus”, but it has no specific meaning in view of overall appearance and a meaning of respective word “MONO” and “+”.

As for the cited mark, the Board held the term “MONO” is not a foreign word familiar among relevant consumers in Japan. Thus, it has a sound of “mono”, but no specific meaning.

Comparing both marks, although they share the same appearance in that both contain the word “MONO”, they are sufficiently distinguishable because, by virtue of the presence or absence of the “+” symbol at the end, it is conceived both marks represent different words as a whole.  

Phonetically, they start with the same sound “mono”, but the overall tone and impression are different with or without the sound “plus” at the end. Due to the reason, both sounds can be distinguishable.

It is meaningless to compare the concept of both marks because neither does give rise to a specific meaning.

If so, from the totality of visual, aural, and conceptual points of view, the Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers are likely to confuse the source of the services in class 35 bearing the applied mark with the earlier mark.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found both marks are dissimilar regardless of similarity in goods and services, and decided to cancel the rejection and granted protection of the applied mark.

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”.

Trademark Opposition: JEEP vs JEIP321

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US) LLC against TM Reg no. 6586965 for the wordmark “JEIP321” to be used on covers and accessories for cars in class 12 by finding dissimilarity to and unlikelihood of confusion with the “JEEP” mark.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900391, decided on September 28, 2023]

Opposed mark

The wordmark “JEIP321” was filed by a Chinese individual for use on steering wheels covers for automobiles, vehicle covers [shaped], upholstery foe vehicles, two-wheeled trolleys, windscreen wipers, anti-dazzle devices for vehicles, ashtrays for automobiles, rearview mirrors, mudguards, cigar lighters for automobiles in class 12 with the JPO on January 25, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-7763).

The JPO admitted registration on July 13, 2022, and published for opposition on July 22, 2022.


Opposition by FCA US LLC

To oppose registration within a statutory period of two months counting from the publication date, FCA US LLC filed an opposition against the opposed mark on September 14, 2022.

FCA argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the JEEP mark as a source indicator of Chrysler vehicles and a high degree of similarity between the opposed mark “JEIP321” and the opponent’s famous earlier registered mark “JEEP.”

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark that is deemed identical with, or similar to, an earlier 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.

Inter alia, FCA pointed out that the literal element “JEIP” shall be considered as a prominent portion of the opposed mark since numerals lack distinctiveness per se. If so, the opposed mark is confusingly similar to the “JEEP” mark from visual and phonetical points of view.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted a high degree of reputation and popularity of the “JEEP” mark in connection with four-wheeled automobiles.

In assessing the similarity of the mark, the Board found that a prominent portion of the opposed mark “JEIP” and the “JEEP” mark are less likely to cause confusion from visual, phonetical and conceptual points of view by stating that:

“From appearance, there is a difference in the third letter, “I” and “E” between “JEIP” and “JEEP”. The effect would be anything but negligible on the overall visual impression of both marks, since they are composed of only four characters.

Comparing the sound of “JEIP” with “JEEP”, there is a clear difference at the beginning, “dʒeɪ” and “dʒiː” It shall cause a significant distinction on the overall tone and impression in a short three-sound structure to the extent that relevant consumers would not mishear them when pronounced in unison.

Conceptually, both marks are dissimilar because the opposed mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. In the meantime, the opponent mark “JEEP” has a meaning of ‘Jeep brand 4WD vehicles.’”

Even though “JEEP” has become famous in relation to 4WD vehicles, the Board has no reason to believe that relevant consumers would associate the goods in question bearing the opposed mark “JEIP321” with the opponent or any business entity systematically or economically connected with FCA because of a low degree of similarity between the marks.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv), and decided to dismiss the entire opposition.

Trademark Dispute: Louis Vuitton vs Rui vuit

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) didn’t side with LOUIS VUITTON MALLETIER in an opposition against TM Reg no. 6595438 for wordmark “Rui vuit” in class 25 due to dissimilarity to the “LOUIS VUITTON” mark.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900422, decided on August 14, 2023]

Rui vuit

Opposed mark, consisting of a word “Rui vuit” in standard character, was sought for registration by a Chinese citizen for use on clothing and sports shoes (cl.25) with the JPO on December 24, 2021.

The JPO examiner did not raise any refusal and granted protection of the mark on July 12, 2023. Subsequently, it was published for a post-grant opposition on August 10 ,2022.


Opposition by Louis Vuitton

On October 7, 2022, LOUIS VUITTON MALLETIER filed an opposition with the JPO and claimed that the opposed mark shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier TM registrations for wordmark “LOUIS VUITTON” in classes 9, 14, 18, 24, 25, 35.

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to prohibit the registration of 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.

Louis Vuitton argued the opposed mark “Rui Vuit” shall be confusingly similar to “LOUIS VUITTON” especially in sound. A mere difference of sound “n” in the suffix would be trivial and give a similar impression as a whole to the extent that consumers are unable to sufficiently distinguish.


JPO Decision

The JPO Opposition Board denied similarity between “Rui vuit” and “LOUIS VUITTON” by stating:

There is no doubt that both marks are visually distinguishable because respective mark represents a different word with different spellings.

Aurally, even if both sounds share the two initial sounds “lü-ˈē”, the overall sounds are easily distinguishable by virtue of difference in an “n” sound at the end.

Conceptually, the opposed mark does not have a specific conception. In the meantime, the cited mark gives rise to a meaning of famous fashion brand “Louis Vuitton”. If so, there is no similarity in concept.

Therefore, the Board has a reason to find a low degree of similarity between two marks, and even when used on the same or similar goods, there is no risk of confusion due to the dissimilarity of the marks.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the entire allegations and decided the validity of the opposed mark as the status quo.

Chrysler Wins Japan Trademark Invalidation Trial over “Jeeper”

In a recent invalidation decision by the Japan Patent Office (JPO), Chrysler could finally achieve victory in a trademark dispute against “Jeeper”, regardless of their failed opposition in 2022.

[Invalidation case no. 2022-890064, decided on July 5, 2023]

Disputed mark

The wordmark “Jeeper” was filed by a Japanese individual for use on various hand tools in class 8 with the JPO on January 27, 2020 (TM App no. 2020-8907).

Since the JPO admitted registration of the mark on November 17, 2020, and published it for a post-grant opposition on December 8, 2020, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA US) LLC filed an opposition on Jan 26, 2021.

In the opposition, FCA argued the mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Trademark Law due to the remarkable reputation and popularity of “JEEP” as a source indicator of Chrysler vehicles and a high degree of similarity between the mark “Jeeper” and Chrysler “JEEP.”

Article 4(1)(xi) is a provision to refrain from registering a junior mark that is deemed identical with, or similar to, an earlier 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.

However, on April 6, 2022, the JPO Opposition Board dismissed the opposition by questioning the famousness of the “JEEP” mark among relevant consumers of hand tools and finding a low degree of similarity between the two marks (Opposition case no. 2021-900035).


Invalidation action by FCA US LLC

To contest the Opposition Board decision, FCA US LLC filed an invalidation action with the JPO on July 28, 2022, and repeatedly argued the mark “Jeeper” shall be invalid due to its similarity to and the likelihood of confusion with “JEEP” when used on the hand tools in class 8.

The applicant did neither file an answer nor respond to the invalidation claims at all.


JPO Decision

The JPO Trial Board admitted a high degree of reputation and recognition of the claimant’s trademark “JEEP” in connection with small 4WD cars. Besides, based on the facts that the JEEP mark has been used on T-shirts, backpacks, bags, mugs, lunch boxes, carabiners, key chains, spray bottles, containers, and cooler boxes, the Board found the JEEP mark has even become famous among consumers of goods other than automobiles.

Based on the above findings, the Board held that, by taking account of the famousness of the JEEP mark as a source indicator of the claimant’s small 4WD cars, the literal portion of “Jeep” shall play a prominent role in indicating the source of the disputed mark. If so, the disputed mark gives rise to the sound of “Jeep” and the meaning of “the claimant’s famous small 4WD cars” accordingly.

Bearing this in mind, the Board compared the prominent portion “Jeep” of the disputed mark with the claimant’s mark “JEEP” and found a close resemblance of both marks as a whole.

In assessing the likelihood of confusion, the Board held small 4WD cars are remotely associated with hand tools in class 8, however, the Board paid attention to the fact that camp items bearing the JEEP mark e.g., backpacks, mugs, carabiners, cooler boxes, etc., are closely associated with the goods in question.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of the goods in question bearing the disputed mark with the claimant and decided to invalidate the disputed mark based on Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv).