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.

Failed Trademark Opposition over VW TYPE-2

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with Volkswagen AG in an opposition against TM Reg no. 6365340 for device mark containing a depiction of a van-type red car by finding unlikelihood of confusion with Volkswagen Type-2.

[Opposition case no. 2021-900210, decided on September 14, 2023]

Opposed mark

Sur Andino SA, a Chilean wine grower and producer, filed a trademark application for device mark containing a depiction of a van-type red car (see below) to be used on wines in class 33 with the JPO on February 5, 2020.

The JPO granted protection of the opposed mark on March 9, 2021 and published is for a post-grant opposition on April 6, 2021.


Opposition by Volkswagen

On June 7, 2021, just before the lapse of a two-month statutory period counting from the publication date, Volkswagen AG filed an opposition and claimed the opposed mark shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law.

Volkswagen argued a van-type red car depicted in the opposed mark resembles the VW Type 2 vehicles, aka Transporter, Bulli, Kombi, VW Bus that have been distributed worldwide for past six decades and a unique shape of the vehicles has played a significant role in identifying the origin of car. Because of it, the applicant must have had a bad faith to free-ride or dilute fame and prestige of the VW Type 2. Relevant consumers are likely to confuse a source of wines bearing the opposed mark with VW.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board questioned whether the shape of the VW Type 2 per se has played a role in indicating the source from the produced evidence.

Given there is insufficient evidence to connect a van-type red car in the opposed mark with the VW Type 2, the Board found no reason to believe the applicant had a bad faith to free-ride or dilute prestige of the VW Type 2 by using the opposed mark on wines. If so, it is unlikely that relevant consumers confuse a source of wines bearing the opposed mark with Volkswagen.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided the opposed mark shall not be canceled based on Article 4(1)(vii), (xv) and (xix), and thus dismissed entire allegations by Volkswagen.

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).

ZARA vs AZRA

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Industria de Diseño Textil, SA (INDITEX), owner of the fashion brand “ZARA”, against trademark registration no. 6638156 for word mark “AZRA” in classes 11, 20, 21, 24 and 27 by finding dissimilarity to and less likelihood of confusion with “ZARA”.

[Opposition case no. 2023-900013, decided on September 1, 2023]

Opposed mark

Opposed mark, consisting of a wordmark “AZRA” in standard character, was applied for registration in the name of STREAK Co., Ltd., a Japanese company offering bedding, pillows, pillow covers, cushions [furniture], mattresses, curtains and sleeping pads, on August 9, 2022, by designating various goods in classes 11, 20, 21, 24 and 27, and published for post-grant opposition on November 16, 2022, without confronting with office action from the JPO.

Screen capture from Rakuten

Opposition by Inditex

Opponent, INDITEX, one of the world’s largest fashion retailers and owner of the fashion brand “ZARA”, filed an opposition on January 14, 2023 before the lapse of a two-month statutory period and claimed opposed mark “AZRA” shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for word mark “ZARA”.

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

INDITEX argued “AZRA” is similar to its own trademark “ZARA”, a worldwide famous fast-fashion brand, from visual, phonetic and conceptual points of view. Besides, the goods in question are identical.

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

INDITEX argued that “ZARA” has acquired a remarkable reputation among relevant consumers and the close resemblance between the marks and goods, and thus relevant consumers are likely to confuse or misconceive the goods bearing the opposed mark “AZRA” with “ZARA”.

Article 4(1)(xix) prohibits registering a trademark that is identical with, or similar to, other entity’s famous mark, if such trademark is aimed for unfair purposes, e.g. gaining unfair profits, or causing damage to the entity.

INDITEX argued the applicant must have filed the opposed mark aiming to gain unfair profits by the free-riding opponent famous trademark “ZARA”.


JPO decision

To my surprise, the JPO Opposition Board had a view that “ZARA” has not acquired a high degree of reputation and popularity among general consumers even though widely recognized among fashion conscious consumers by taking into consideration the produced evidence. The Board pointed a high number of followers on Facebook (31millions), Instagram (57millions) by itself would be insufficient and irrelevant to demonstrate a high degree of recognition among general consumers of the goods in question.

Besides, the Board found “AZRA” and “ZARA” are obviously dissimilar in appearance and pronunciation by stating that difference on the first and second letter and sound would be sufficiently distinguishable given both marks visually consist of four alphabets and aurally just two or three sounds. As for the concept, it is incomparable since either mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. Therefore, both marks are unlikely to cause confusion due to dissimilarity between the marks.

Since no evidence was shown by Inditex to support that the applicant filed the opposed mark for unfair purposes or causing damage to the opponent.

Based on the foregoing, the JPO dismissed the entire allegations of INDITEX and allowed “AZRA” to survive.

McDonald Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition against “mac”

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

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

Opposed mark “mac”

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

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

Screen capture from Google map

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


Opposition by McDonald

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

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


JPO decision

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Shangri-La Unsuccessful in Trademark Opposition Over “Shangri-La Golf”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition claimed by Shangri-La Hotels against TM Reg no. 6610570 for the mark “Shangri-La-Golf” in class 35 due to dissimilarity between “Shangri-La” and “Shangri-La-Golf”.

[Opposition case no. 2022-900465, decided on July 26, 2023]

Opposed mark

A Japanese individual filed a stylized word mark “Shangri-La-Golf” (see below) for use on retail and wholesale services in relation to woven fabrics, beddings, clothing, footwear, and personal articles in class 35 with the JPO on June 22, 2020.

The JPO examiner rejected the mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for wordmark “SHANGRI-LA”.

However, as a result of the JPO Appeal Board’s decision that found dissimilar to “SHANGRI-LA”, the mark could be registered on September 6, 2022.


Opposition by Shangri-La Hotels

Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd filed an opposition against the opposed mark on November 11, 2022 and 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 due to a remarkable degree of recognition of the cited mark “Shangri-La” and close resemblance between the opposed mark and “Shangri-La”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board questioned a remarkable degree of recognition of the cited mark among relevant public in Japan by stating that the produced evidence is insufficient to find such recognition objectively.

As for appearance, sound and meaning of the opposed mark, the Board found

“The opposed mark consists of “Shangri”, “La”, and “Golf” written in the same font and size, and tightly united by a hyphen (-). Visually, there is no reason to find respective element perse independently plays a role in source indicator of the opposed mark. Besides, the sound arising from the opposed mark as a whole can be pronounced easily.

Even if the term “Golf” has the meaning of a kind of ball game, it is reasonable to find that the term would not be recognized as directly indicating a descriptive meaning or specific quality of the services in question. Relevant consumers would see the opposed mark as a whole.

Therefore, the opposed mark shall be assessed in its entirety and give rise to a pronunciation of “Shangri-La-Golf” and no specific meaning.”

Based on the above finding, the Board decided the opposed mark “Shangri-La-Golf” is dissimilar to the cited mark “Shanri-La” because there is visual and phonetical distinction between the marks by virtue of the term “Golf” and the opposed mark does not give rise to a meaning related to ‘a remote usually idyllic hideaway’.

Accordingly, the Board found the opposition baseless and decided the opposed mark remains as the status quo.

HERMES Victory in trademark dispute against HAIRMES

On July 26, 2023, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) sided with Hermes International in an invalidation trial against TM Reg no. 6275593 for the wordmark “HAIRMES” by finding the owner’s unjustified intention to free-ride and dilute the famous fashion brand “HERMES” and cause confusion.

[Invalidation case no. 2022-890082]

Disputed mark

Dog Diggin Designs, LLC applied a wordmark “HAIRMES” in standard character for use on beds for household pets; pillows for pets; pet cushions in class 20, and toys for pets in class 28 with the JPO on October 16, 2019. Apparently, the company promotes parody dog toys & dog beds, and other pet supplies.

https://www.dogdiggindesigns.com/

Hermes International filed a post-grant opposition against the disputed mark with the JPO on October 15, 2020, and argued the disputed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(x), (xi), (xv), and (xix) of the Trademark Law because of the remarkable reputation and popularity of the HERMES brand in the fashion industry and a high degree of similarity between “HAIRMES” and “HERMES” likely to cause confusion among relevant consumers in Japan.

The JPO Opposition Board decided to dismiss the opposition by finding unlikelihood of confusion due to a low degree of similarity between the marks. Click here.


Invalidation action by Hermes

Hermes International filed an invalidation action with the JPO based on the same grounds on October 18, 2022, and repeatedly argued the owner must have had an intention to imitate and free-ride on reputation and goodwill of the famous fashion brand “HERMES” by making use of similar trade dress with Hermes packaging color and design in addition to similar HAIRMES mark.


JPO decision

The JPO Invalidation Board admitted that “HERMES” has been widely recognized as a luxury fashion brand and source indicator of Hermes International.

In the assessment of similarity of mark, the Board found both marks are dissimilar in sound and concept. However, these marks give a similar visual impression by sharing the first letter “H” and the four letter “RMES” in the latter half of respective word, which catches the attention of consumers. If so, the Board has a reason to believe there is a certain degree of similarity between the marks.

The Board paid attention to a fact that the owner promotes pet beds and pet toys bearing similar color and decoration to the iconic Hermes packaging. Based on the circumstances, the Board had a view that presumably the owner, knowing that the HERMES mark has been widely recognized among consumers in Japan, must have had an intention to free-ride or dilute reputation on HERMES.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found relevant consumers are likely to confuse the source of pet beds and toys bearing the disputed mark with Hermes International in view of close association with fashion items as well, and decided to invalidate the disputed mark entirely.

JPO Annual Report 2023

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) released its 2023 Annual Report (in Japanese only) on July 28, 2023, which contains informative figures and statistics relating to IP applications in Japan and all other activities of the JPO.


Trademark applications filed in 2022

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of trademark applications in Japan decreased to 170,275 by 7.8 % in 2022. TM applications via Madrid Protocol also decreased to 19,769 by 1.6% compared to the previous year. Direct applications decreased to 150,506 by 8.5 %.


Pendency time for trademark prosecution

Since 2020, the first office action pendency, the average number of months from the date of application filing to the JPO examiner’s first office action, has been drastically getting shorter in a row. The first Action Pendency was 5.4 months in 2022.

Total pendency, the average number of months from the date of filing to registration in 2022 was 6.9 months, four months shorter than in 2020 (11.2 months).


The average number of months for trial is also getting shorter in 2022.

TM Appeal trial: 8.6 months / TM Opposition trial: 8.9 months / TM Invalidation trial: 10.0 months / TM Cancellation trial: 6.4months


TM applications to JPO by Foreign Companies/ Non-resident

44,911 trademark applications, which account for 26.4 % of the total, were filed by foreign companies or non-residents in 2022. The number of applications was decreased by 13 % since last year.

The statistic shows China was continuously leading the ranking with about 15,100 trademark applications in 2022, decreased by 25 % from the previous year.