Acceptable goods and services for Metaverse and NFTs

On March 29, 2024, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) released a new Trademark Examination Manual 46.02 regarding adequate goods and services in connection with the Metaverse and NFTs.


Virtual goods

  1. “Virtual goods” is unacceptable as a goods because of broad and vague description.
  2. Acceptable description (examples in virtual clothing) [similarity code]
    • Cl. 9: Downloadable virtual clothing [11C01, 24E02, 26D01]
    • Cl. 9: Downloadable computer programs for displaying clothing in virtual environments [24E02, 26D01]
    • Cl. 9: Downloadable image files for displaying clothing in virtual environments [24E02, 26D01]
    • Cl. 35: Online retail services for downloadable virtual clothing [11C01, 24E02, 26D01, 35K08, 35K15, 35K99]
    • Cl. 41: Providing online images for displaying clothing in virtual environment [41E02]
    • Cl. 42: Providing computer programs on data networks for displaying clothing in virtual environments [42X11]
  3. Unacceptable description
    • Cl. 9: virtual goods (clothing)
    • Cl. 9: downloadable virtual goods
    • Cl. 9: downloadable virtual living ware
    • Cl. 9: downloadable computer programs for displaying goods in virtual environments
    • Cl. 9: downloadable image files for displaying goods in virtual environments
    • Cl. 35: retail services for downloadable virtual goods
    • Cl. 35: retail services for downloadable virtual foods and beverages
    • Cl. 41: providing online images for displaying goods in virtual environment
    • Cl. 42: Providing computer programs on data networks for displaying goods in virtual environments
  4. Inappropriate class
    • Cl. 25: downloadable virtual clothing
    • Cl. 25: virtual clothing

Services in connection with the Metaverse

  1. Acceptable description (examples)
    • Metaverse Platformers
      • Cl. 38: providing chatrooms in virtual environments [42X11]
      • Cl. 42: hosting software platforms for virtual environment-based work collaboration [42X11]
    • Service provider on the Metaverse
      • Cl. 35: marketing through product placement for others in virtual environments [35A01, 35A02, 35B01]
      • Cl. 36: online banking services renders in virtual environments [36A01]
      • Cl. 41: simulated travel services provided in virtual environments for entertainment purposes [41F06]
      • Cl. 41: online game services provided via virtual environments [41K01, 41Z99]
  2. Similarity code
    • Identical code is used when a service provided in the Metaverse achieves the same purpose and outcome as a service in the real world
      • Cl. 35: advertising for other in virtual environments [35A01]
      • Cl. 41: presentation of music concerts in virtual environments [41E03]
    • Different code is used when a service provided in the Metaverse does not achieve the same purpose and outcome as a service in real world
      • Cl. 41: simulated restaurant services provided in virtual environments for entertainment purposes [41K01, 41Z99] (cf. Cl. 43: restaurant services [42B01])

NFTs

  1. “NFT” is unacceptable as a goods and service because of broad and vague description.
  2. Acceptable description (examples) [similarity code]
    • Cl. 9: Downloadable computer software applications for minting non-fungible tokens [NFTs] [11C01]
    • Cl. 9: Downloadable digital image files authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs] [24E02, 26D01]
    • Cl. 25: clothing authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs] [17A01, 17A02, 17A03, 17A04, 17A07]
    • Cl. 35: purchasing of digital image files authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs] [35B01]
    • Cl. 36: management of crypto assets authenticated by non-fungible tokens [NFTs] [36A01]
    • Cl. 42: Providing online non-downloadable computer software for minting non-fungible tokens [NFTs] [42X11]
  3. Unacceptable description
    • Non-fungible tokens [NFTs]
    • Online retail services for non-fungible tokens [NFTs]
    • Provision of an online marketplace for buyers and sellers of non-fungible tokens [NFTs]

COCO vs. KOKO

In a recent administrative decision, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) found that the trademarks “CoCo” and “koko” are dissimilar and unlikely to cause confusion.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900250, decided on March 25, 2024]


“koko”

A wordmark “koko” in standard character was applied for registration with the JPO by a Japanese individual in relation to services of class 35, 41 and 42 including educational and instruction services relating to arts, crafts, sports or general knowledge (cl. 41) on October 7, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-115511).

The JPO examiner issued an office action due to a conflict with TM Reg nos. 6327674 and 6327645 for the mark “KOKO HOTELS” and IR no. 950884-A for the mark “KOKO”.

The applicant was successful in a partial non-use cancellation action to IR no. 950884-A and argued in a response dissimilarity of the mark between “KOKO HOTELS” and “koko”.

Consequently, the examiner withdrew her rejection and granted protection of the mark “koko” on September 8, 2023. After registration (TM Reg no. 6737526), the mark was published for a post-grand opposition on September 28, 2023.


Trademark Opposition

The owner of earlier TM Reg no. 6167547 for wordmark “CoCo” filed a partial opposition on November 6, 2023, and claimed cancellation of the mark “koko” in relation to educational and instruction services relating to arts, crafts, sports or general knowledge of class 41 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.

The claimant argued that the opposed mark “koko” shall be deemed similar to “CoCo” since both marks have the same sound. Besides, the service “educational and instruction services relating to arts, crafts, sports or general knowledge” is similar to ballet school services in class 41 designated by the cited mark. Therefore, the opposed mark is subject to cancellation in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi).


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board found the opposed mark “koko” is a coined word without any specific meaning. In the meantime, the cited mark “CoCo” has a meaning of the coconut palm as described in English dictionary.

The Board stated when comparing visual aspect of respective mark, overall impressions are different and unlikely to cause confusion because as they differ in the first and third letters “k” and “C” among four letters in total.

Although both marks share the same sound, the Board believes that they are sufficiently distinguishable in terms of concept and appearance regardless of similarity in respective service. Therefore, it is unlikely that relevant consumers will confuse the source of the service in question based on a global assessment of visual, phonetic, and conceptual factors.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire opposition and decided the opposed mark shall not be subject to Article 4(1)(xi).

Can a ‘Letter of Consent’ guarantee successful trademark registration in Japan?

The revised Japan Trademark Law will come into effect on April 1, 2024, introducing the “Letter of Consent” as a means to overcome conflicts with earlier trademark registrations.

However, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) recently announced that evidence must be provided in addition to a consent letter obtained from the earlier registrant when applying Article 4(4) of the Japan Trademark Law. This evidence must convince the JPO examiner that there is no likelihood of confusion between earlier and junior marks, not only at present but also in the future.


Article 4(4) of the Japan Trademark Law, which is newly introduced in April, states:

Trademark applications will not be rejected under Article 4(1)(xi) as long as the applicant obtains consent from the owner of the cited mark and it is unlikely to cause confusion with the cited owner or its exclusive or non-exclusive licensee when used on goods or services designated under the application.


Trademark examination guidelines for Article 4(4) provides:

  1. The requirement of being ‘unlikely to cause confusion’ must be satisfied not only at the time of the JPO examiner’s decision, but also in the future.
  2. To satisfy the requirement, the following factors will be assessed:
    • Similarity between marks
    • Recognition of mark
    • Uniqueness of mark
    • Significance of mark (House mark or product brand)
    • Possibility of business expansion
    • Relatedness of goods and service
    • Consumers
    • Trade practices involving actual use of mark
  3. Where both marks are identical and used on same goods and service, the examiner will find “likely to cause confusion” in principle.
  4. Applicant will be required to provide evidence to demonstrate unlikelihood of confusion based on actual use of both marks. For instance,
    • Different color, font or combination between literal element and figurative element of respective mark
    • Different position to place the mark or to accompany with other distinctive mark
    • Difference in speific purpose or price of respective goods
    • Different sales channel
    • Different seasons to use the mark
    • Different territory to use the mark
    • Mutual covenants to take necessary actions if confusion is likely to occur between the marks
  5. An agreement between the parties not to change the present use or configuration of both marks in the future will be required to strengthen the unlikelihood of confusion in the future.

It is important to note that “letter of consent” is not available to trademark applications filed with the JPO before April 1, 2024, even if they are pending examination.

Similarly, international registrations that were registered at the WIPO or subsequently designated to Japan before April 1, 2024, can’t make use of the consent.

Trademark dispute: “CLUB MOET” vs “Moët & Chandon”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) cancelled trademark registration no 6687666 due to a likelihood of confusion with ‘Moët’, which is known as an abbreviation for the world-famous ‘Moët & Chandon’ champagne.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900130, decided on February 29, 2024]


CLUB MOET

Opposed mark, consisting of words “CLUB” and “MOET” combined with a rose design (see below), was filed on June 27, 2021 for use on restaurant services in class 43 by a Japanese individual.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark due to a likelihood of confusion with famous mark “Moët” in connection with alcoholic beverages based on Article 4(1)(xv) of the Trademark Law on January 14, 2022. To contest the decision, the applicant filed an appeal with the JPO and claimed to cancel the examiner’s rejection.

On March 16, 2023, the JPO Appeal Board disaffirmed the examiner’s rejection and found that the mark would not contain the term “MOET” visually because of a rose design in between “M” and “ET”. If so, relevant consumers are unlikely to associate the mark with “Moët & Chandon” even if the term “MOET” has acquired a certain degree of recognition as an abbreviation of world-famous “Moët & Chandon” champaign. [Appeal case no. 2022-5881]

Accordingly, the Board granted protection of the mark and published for a post-grant opposition on April 17, 2023.


MHCS – OPPOSITION

On May 31, 2023, MHCS, the producer of the famous Moët & Chandon champagne, sought cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of the same article, and claimed the opposed mark is likely to cause confusion with “Moët & Chandon” when used on restaurant service in class 43.

MHCS argued that the combination of literal elements and the rose design can be considered to represent the term ‘MOET’, as the rose design resembles a stylised letter ‘O’. As ‘CLUB’ lacks distinctive character in relation to restaurant service, the term ‘MOET’ should be considered a significant portion as a source indicator.

If so, relevant consumers are likely to associate or misconnect the restaurant using the opposed mark with “Moët & Chandon” due to the high degree of reputation and popularity of the mark “MOET” as an abbreviation of the world-famous champaign, as well as the close resemblance between the opposed mark and “MOET”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board ruled in favor of MHCS, stating that both ‘Moët & Chandon’ and its abbreviation ‘Moët’ have gained significant recognition as a leading champagne brand distributed by MHCS.

The Board determined that the rose design’s outline is almost circular and can be substituted with the letter ‘O’. Therefore, the combination of the literal elements and the rose design will be identified as the term ‘MOET’ in its entirety.

The difference between ‘MOET’ and ‘Moët’ is insignificant. The term ‘CLUB’ lacks distinctiveness in relation to the service in question. Therefore, the Board has reason to find a high degree of similarity between the opposed mark and ‘Moët’.

Besides, there is a certain degree of association between champagne and restaurant services.

Based on the foregoing, the Opposition Board decided that found relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of restaurant using the opposed mark with MHCS or any business entity that is economically or systematically connected with the opponent. As a result, the opposed mark was cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv).

RIMOWA Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition

On February 26, 2024, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Rimowa GmbH against TM Reg no. 6701836 for wordmark “RIMOWA” written in Japanese character in class 38 and 42 by finding dissimilarity to earlier IR no. 1303010 “Rimowa Electronic Tag”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900179]


Opposed mark

Opposed mark, consisting of three Japanese hiragana character “りもわ” that corresponds to the Japanese transliteration of “RIMOWA”, was flied with the JPO by Computer Engineering & Consulting Ltd. (CEC) a Japanese company, for use on ‘Telecommunication; Providing online forums; Communications by mobile phones; Streaming of data; Electronic bulletin board services [telecommunications services]; Video-on-demand transmission; Videoconferencing services’ in class 38 and ‘Providing computer programs on data networks; Software as a service [SaaS]; Platform as a service [PaaS]; Providing virtual computer systems through cloud computing; Providing computer software for virtual reality’ in class 42 on Nov 21, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-133281).

The JPO examiner issued an office action based on Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing IR no. 1452467 “RIMOWA” (cl. 9) owned by Rimowa GmbH.

As the applicant deleted the services in class 42 that conflict with the goods in class 9 designated under IR no. 1452467, the examiner granted protection of the mark on May 12, 2023.

The applicant uses the mark in relation to virtual office services. If this is the case, the mark indicates an abbreviation of ‘Remote working’.


Opposition by RIMOWA

Rimowa GmbH, the renowned German luxury luggage-maker, filed an opposition with the JPO on August 7, 2023 and claimed cancellation of the opposed mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) by citing IR no. 1303010 for wordmark “Rimowa Electronic Tag” that covers services in class 38 and 42.

Rimowa argued that the term ‘Rimowa’ is well-known among relevant consumers as a high-end luggage brand and should play a significant role in identifying the source of services in classes 38 and 42. This is because the term ‘Electronic Tag’ is less distinctive in relation to these services. Therefore, the opposed mark may be confusingly similar to the cited mark from a visual point of view.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board found the opposed mark is not an ordinary word in dictionaries and has a sound of “Rimowa” but does not give rise to any specific meaning.

Regarding the cited mark, the Board determined that it should be evaluated as a whole, rather than based on the individual words ‘Electronic Tag’. This approach considers the tight combination of all the letters in the cited mark.

If so, the Board stated that there is no reason to believe that the term ‘Rimowa’ is a significant part of the cited mark as a source indicator.

When comparing the opposed mark to the cited mark in terms of appearance, it is easy to distinguish between them due to the obvious differences in characters (hiragana and alphabets) and the number of letters. In terms of pronunciation, the term ‘Electronic Tag’ makes a clear difference in the overall sound of two marks. Therefore, it is easily distinguishable when pronounced, even though the initial sound is the same. Furthermore, in terms of concept, neither of the two marks produces a specific meaning, making them incomparable. Therefore, considering these findings and circumstances, there is no risk of confusion regarding the origin, even when they are used for the same or similar services.

Based on the above, the Board found that both marks were dissimilar and decided to dismiss all allegations.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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”.