Tennis King Roger Federer Defeated out of the Court

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Tenro AG, a Swiss company established by Tennis King Roger Federer, against Japanese TM Reg no. 6691122 for mark “Roger King” in class 28 by finding dissimilarity to IR nos. 1529136 “THE ROGER” & 1529148 “ROGER” and unlikelihood of confusion.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900151, decided on April 23, 2024]


Roger King

Hirota Gold Inc. applied trademark application for stylized word mark “Roger King” (see below) in relation to golf clubs, golf club head covers, golf bags, golf gloves, golf equipment, and sports equipment of class 28 with the JPO on February 1, 2022 (TM App no. 2022-11297).

The applicant is engaged in the business of promoting golf clubs bearing the applied mark.

The JPO granted protection of the applied mark on April 14, 2023, and then published it for post-grant opposition on April 27, 2023.


Opposition by Tenro AG

Tenro AG, a Swiss company established by Tennis King Roger Federer, filed an opposition against the applied mark “Roger King” and claimed the mark shall be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing their owned earlier trademark registration nos. IR 1529136 for wordmark “THE ROGER” and IR 1529148 for wordmark “ROGER” in class 25.

Tenro AG argued that when “Roger King” is used in connection with the designated goods in question (athletic equipment), relevant consumers will associate the famous Roger Federer. Since Mr. Federer is called “King Roger”, they will undoubtedly consider the opposed mark as the name of Mr. Federer. Consequently, the opposed mark and the cited marks are deemed similar because they share the same sound and appearance, and both give rise to the same meaning as the famous Roger Federer.


JPO decision

Initially, the JPO Opposition Board found that although Roger Federer is widely recognized as a prominent tennis player, he is not typically abbreviated as “Roger.” Furthermore, there is no concrete evidence indicating the scope and method of advertising and market share in Japan for goods using the cited marks. Therefore, the Board has no reason to believe that the cited marks are widely recognized as a source indicator of the claimant’s business among Japanese consumers.

Secondly, in evaluating the similarity of the marks, the Board held that, from appearance and sound, both marks are clearly distinguishable as a whole due to the presence and absence of “THE” and/or “KING”. Besides, the opposed mark does not have a specific concept. Meanwhile, the cited marks give rise to a meaning of a man’s name. If so, there is no similarity and confusion in concept.

In the absence of a convincing demonstration of the fame of the cited mark and a low degree of similarity between the opposed mark and the cited marks, it is unlikely that relevant consumers will confuse a source of goods in question bearing the opposed mark with Mr. Roger Federer or the claimant’s business.

Based on the foregoing, the Board decided that the opposed mark shall not be canceled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi) and (xv) and dismissed the opposition entirely.

ZARA Unsuccessful Opposition against TM “LAZARA”

On April 22, 2024, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition filed by Industria de Diseño Textil, SA (INDITEX), owner of the fashion brand “ZARA”, against TM Reg no. 6699667 for word mark “LAZARA” in classes 25 due to dissimilar marks and unlikelihood of confusion with “ZARA”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900175]


Opposed mark

Opposed mark, consisting of a wordmark “LAZARA” in standard character, was applied for registration by Japanese individual to be used on clothing in class 25 on November 20, 2022, and published for post-grant opposition on May 29, 2023.


Opposition by Inditex

Opponent, INDITEX, one of the world’s largest fashion retailers and owner of the fashion brand “ZARA”, filed an opposition on July 27, 2023 before the lapse of a two-month statutory period and claimed opposed mark “LAZARA” shall be cancelled in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations (TM Reg no. 4108998 and IR no. 752502 in class25) for word mark “ZARA”.

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

INDITEX contended that the opposed mark “LAZARA” is similar to its own trademark “ZARA,” a globally renowned fast-fashion brand given the suffix “LA” is a descriptive word that merely indicates the definite article in Spanish. Besides, the goods in question are identical.

Article 4(1)(xv) prohibits the registration of trademarks that are likely to cause confusion with the business of other entities.

INDITEX contended that the mark “ZARA” has become renowned among relevant consumers in connection with apparel. Given the high degree of resemblance between “LAZARA” and “ZARA” as well as the goods, it is likely that consumers will confuse or misconceive the goods bearing the opposed mark “LAZARA” with “ZARA.”

Article 4(1)(xix) proscribes the registration of a trademark that is identical with or similar to another entity’s famous mark if the trademark is intended for the purpose of gaining unfair profits or causing damage to the entity.

INDITEX contended that the applicant had filed the opposed mark with the intention of obtaining unfair profits through free-riding on the well-known trademark “ZARA”.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board held that “ZARA” has acquired a certain degree of recognition among relevant consumers in Japan and foreign countries as a source indication of clothing, however, the Board denied a high degree of recognition of the mark among the consumers by taking into consideration the produced evidence. The Board criticized “INDITEX produced precedent administrative decisions as evidence that admitted famousness of the mark “ZARA” in Japan. But, famousness of trademark shall be assessed on a case-by-case basis based on relevant facts and evidence produced in each case. Therefore, the precedent decisions would not bind the ongoing case. INDITEX did not reveal sales figure and expenditure for advertisement in connection with apparel bearing the mark ZARA.

Furthermore, the Board found the consumers would perceive the opposed mark “LAZARA” as a whole, which would suggest an unfamiliar foreign word from a visual perspective. If so, “LAZARA” and “ZARA” are evidently dissimilar in appearance and pronunciation because of the distinction between the presence and absence of the letter “LA” in the suffix and the overall sound. As for the concept, it is not comparable since either mark does not give rise to any specific meaning. Consequently, both marks are unlikely to cause confusion due to their dissimilarity.

Additionally, the Board noted that INDITEX had not presented any evidence to substantiate their assertion that the applicant had filed the opposed mark for the purpose of gaining unfair profits or causing harm to INDITEX.

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

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).

CHANEL Lost in Trademark opposition against “COCOBABY”

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) did not side with CHANEL in an opposition against TM Reg no. 6650252 for wordmark “COCOBABY” in class 25 by finding dissimilarity of mark between “COCOBABY” and “COCO”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900041, decided on February 9, 2024]


COCOBABY

On September 22, 2022, a Japanese individual applied to register the word mark ‘COCOBABY’ for use in relation to apparel and toddler clothes of class 25 and immediately after the filing, the applicant requested an accelerated examination based on the fact that he operates the online shop “COCOBABY”, which offers a wide range of clothes for toddlers and babies.

A screen capture from https://www.rakuten.co.jp/princessdream/

Accordingly, the JPO examiner granted protection on November 30, 2022 without raising her objection due to a conflict with Chanel’s COCO mark.


Opposition by CHANEL

On February 14, 2023, Chanel SARL filed an opposition against TM Reg no. 6650252 for the mark “COCOBABY”, and claimed cancellation of the mark in contravention of Article 4(1)(xi), (xv) and (xix) of the Japan Trademark Law by citing earlier trademark registrations for their historical mark “COCO”.

Chanel argued that the term “BABY” was descriptive in relation to the designated goods, namely children’s clothing in class 25. In addition, the mark “COCO” has become famous as an indication of origin for Chanel’s perfumes and cosmetics. In those circumstances, the relevant consumers would consider the term “COCO” to be a prominent part of the opposed mark and would be likely to confuse the source of the clothes bearing the opposed mark with Chanel and an entity economically or systematically liked to Chanel.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board accepted that the mark “COCO” has been well known for Chanel’s perfume. However, the Board questioned whether, on the basis of the evidence submitted, the mark has become also well known among consumers of other goods.

In addition, the Board found that the opposed mark had to be assessed as a whole, even in relation to children’s clothing, from a visual point of view. The mark “COCOBABY”, taken as a whole, does not have a specific meaning.

If so, the opposed mark is not conceptually comparable to the mark “COCO”, but is visually and aurally distinguishable from it.

In view of the low degree of similarity between the marks and the insufficient evidence of the reputation of the mark “COCO” among consumers of the goods in question, the Board has no reason to believe that the consumers are unlikely to confuse the source of the clothing and children’s clothing bearing the opposed mark with Chanel.

Based on the foregoing, the Board dismissed the opposition entirely and decided to maintain the opposed mark as the status quo.

Calvin Klein vs Cailin Kailun

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) dismissed an opposition against TM Reg no. 6686442 for wordmark “Cailin Kailun” in class 25 claimed by Calvin Klein Trademark Trust who argued a likelihood of confusion with “Calvin Klein”.
[Opposition case no. 2023-900108, Gazette issued date: January 26, 2024]


Cailin Kailun

A Chinese individual applied for registration of the wordmark “Cailin Kailun” in standard characters for use on coats, suits, trousers, T-shirts, dresses, socks, stockings, underwear and other clothing, and sports shoes in class 25 on September 1, 2022.

Apparently, men’s underwear bearing the mark is sold online.

The JPO examiner granted protection of the mark on January 30, 2023.


Opposition by Calvin Klein

On May 15, 2023 within two-month statutory deadline starting from the issued date of TM gazette on April 12, 2023, Calvin Klein Trademark Trust filed an opposition against the Cailin Kailun mark and claimed cancellation in contravention of Article 4(1)(vii) and (xv) of the Trademark Law.

Calvin Klein argued that the opposed mark “Cailin Kailun” is confusingly similar to a global fashion brand “Calvin Klein” in appearance and sound. In view of a high degree of distinctiveness and popularity of the “Calvin Klein” mark and close relatedness between the goods in question and the business lineup of Calvin Klein, relevant consumers with an ordinary care would confuse a source of the goods in question bearing the mark “Cailin Kailun” with Calvin Klein even if both marks are not similar in concept.


JPO decision

The JPO Opposition Board admitted the cited mark “Calvin Klein” has been well-known among consumers as a source indicator of the claimant’s business in relation to clothing.

In the meantime, the Board denied similarity of the marks by assessing clear distinctions in appearance, sound and meaning.

Comparing both marks, it is obvious that they start with the same spelling of ‘Ca’ at the first word, and ‘K’ at the second word, and end with ‘n’ at both words. However, because of clear distinction at the other letters, they are easily distinguishable in appearance.

Although both marks have the same sounds at the beginning, in the fourth and last, due to severe difference in other five sounds, they are audibly distinguishable.

There is no similarity in concept because the opposed mark has no meaning at all. Meanwhile, the cited mark gives rise to a meaning of “famous brand called Calvin Klein”.

Given a low degree of similarity between the marks, the Board did not find any reason to believe that relevant consumers would associate or connect the goods bearing the opposed mark with “Calvin Klein” even though the goods in question is highly related to the business lineup of Calvin Klein.

Based on the foregoing, the Board found the opposed mark shall not be cancelled in contravention of Article (1)(vii) and (xv), and decided to dismiss the opposition entirely.

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.

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.

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.