AlphaGo Unsuccessful in Defeating AlphaMini

“AlphaGo” AI system, developed by Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind, has gained the world’s attention after defeating the top human players of the world in a game of go in the year 2016. But, in a recent opposition decision, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not admit the famousness of the trademark “AlphaGo”.
[Opposition case no. 2020-900207, Gazette issued date: March 26, 2021]


Opposed mark “AlphaMini” (see below) was filed with the JPO by UBTECH Robotics, Inc., Chinese artificial intelligence and humanoid robotic company on July 26, 2019, and designated ‘computer programs; AI-powered humanoid robots; application software for smartphones; security surveillance robots; sensors; teaching robots; navigational instruments; mobile phones; facial recognition software; cameras’ in class 9 and ‘games; toy robots; toys; board games; balls for games; body-building apparatus; fishing tackle; archery implements’ in class 28.

According to the website of URTECH Robotics, Inc., the mark is used as a name of their humanoid educational robot.

Opposition by DeepMind “AlphaGo”

DeepMind Technologies Limited filed an opposition against “AlphaMini” and argued the opposed mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xv) of the Japan Trademark Law because relevant consumes would confuse the source of goods bearing the opposed mark “AlphaMini” with DeepMind due to a close resemblance between two marks and famousness of “AlphaGo”.

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

Besides, DeepMind owns several trademarks that begin with the term “ALPHA”, namely, “ALPHACHESS”, “ALPHAZERO”, “ALPHAFOLD”, “ALPHASHOGI”. Taking into consideration a highly renowned computer program “AlphaGo” as the very first AI program that was able to beat one of the highest-ranked human players in the world in 2016, as well as a naming strategy for “ALPHA” AI system series, relevant consumers are likely to associate the opposed mark “AlphaMini” with DeepMind when used on its designated goods in class 9 and 28.

JPO Decision

The Opposition Board of the JPO had concluded that insufficient evidence had been submitted to support the assumption of a well-known mark that is protectable under Article 4(1)(xv).

The Board pointed out that most of the produced newspapers and magazines did not prove the use of the mark “AlphaGo” as a source indicator of the computer program for Go developed by DeepMind. Instead, they just revealed the term “アルファ碁” has been used to represent the AI system by DeepMind. “アルファ碁” is precisely a translation and transliteration of “AlphaGo” written in Japanese character.

The JPO held the mere fact that the first word of both marks is identical would be insufficient. Overall impression of “AlphaGo” and “AlphaMini” is remarkably different from visual, phonetic, and conceptual points of view. Thus, the Board found a low level of similarity between the two marks.

Even if the goods in dispute are closely associated with DeepMind’s business, given a low level of similarity and insufficient evidence to assume the famousness of “AlphaGo”, the Board had no reason to believe the opposed mark would cause confusion with DeepMind when used on the disputed goods in class 9 and 28.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided the opposed mark would not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(x) of the Trademark Law and dismissed the opposition entirely.


In a recent administrative decision, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) allowed registration for a word mark of “AI SCAN ROBO”, finding that the mark could function as a source indicator.
[Appeal case no. 2018-5433, Gazette issue date: November 30, 2018]



Disputed mark, consisting of “AI SCAN ROBO” in a standard character, was applied for registration on April 13, 2017 in connection with computer programs of class 9 and data processing in computer files for others of class 42.

The JPO examiner totally refused the mark due to lack of distinctiveness by stating that:

“AI” is known for an abbreviation of Artificial Intelligence. “SCAN” is a verb to use a machine to make a copy of a document or picture and put it into a computer. “ROBO” is equivalent to “robot”. Besides, the term of “SCAN ROBO” becomes generic in connection with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) robot to capture data and manipulate applications automatically. If so, disputed mark shall fall under Article 3(1)(vi) of the Japan Trademark Law since relevant consumers are likely to conceive disputed mark as a mere description of RPA robot to capture data automatically by making use of Artificial Intelligence.


Article 3(1)(vi) is a comprehensive provision to prohibit any mark lacking inherent distinctiveness from being registered.

Any trademark to be used in connection with goods or services pertaining to the business of an applicant may be registered, unless the trademark:
 is in addition to those listed in each of the preceding items, a trademark by which consumers are not able to recognize the goods or services as those pertaining to a business of a particular person.


Applicant filed an appeal against the refusal and argued inherent distinctiveness of applied mark “AI SCAN ROBO” in its entirety.


Appeal Board decision

The Board set aside the refusal, finding that disputed mark shall not fall under Article 3(1)(vi) on following grounds.

  1. “AI” is known for an abbreviation of Artificial Intelligence.
  2. In the meantime, the Board opines the term “SCAN ROBO” per se does not represent a specific meaning. Rather it shall be considered as a coined word.
  3. If so, “AI SCAN ROBO” does not give rise to any descriptive meaning as a whole.
  4. Besides, there found no circumstances in commerce to support the term “AI SCAN ROBO” has been commonly used in connection with designated goods and service.
  5. Based on the foregoing, it shall be concluded that disputed mark is distinctive and relevant consumers and traders recognize it as a source indicator.