In a recent administrative decision, the Appeal Board of Japan Patent Office (JPO) disaffirmed the examiner’s refusal and held a composite mark, consisting of words “PERFECT GEAR AGENCY” and a monogram “PGA”, is dissimilar to the senior registered word mark “PGA” owned by Professional Golf Association.
[Appeal case no. 2019-10638, Gazette issued date: September 25, 2020]


Disputed mark, see below, was applied for registration in relation to retail or wholesale services for various goods, e.g. foods and beverages, footwear, bags, automobiles in class 35 on January 24, 2018.

The disputed mark consists of the “PGA” monogram and the words “PERFECT GEAR AGENCY” on the right. The initial letter of the respective term is colored in red. Apparently, the monogram comes from an initial letter of each word “PERFECT”, “GEAR” and “AGENCY”.

JPO Examiner rejected the disputed mark by citing several senior trademark registrations for a wordmark “PGA” in various classes owned by Professional Golf Association.

In Japan, retail or wholesale service in respect of specific goods is deemed similar to the goods or its equivalent. For example, retail service in respect of sporting goods (class 35) and sporting goods (class 28) is deemed similar.

That being the case, the applicant filed an appeal against the refusal and contended dissimilarity of the mark.

JPO decision

The Appeal Board found that the “PGA” monogram and words “PERFECT GEAR AGENCY” can be separably seen from a visual point of view. Besides, the “PGA” monogram per se does not give rise to any specific meaning. It is unknown whether relevant Japanese consumers have been familiar with the words “PERFECT GEAR AGENCY” as a whole. If so, the words do not give rise to a specific meaning as well.

By taking account of the above, the Board pointed out the disputed mark shall be pronounced as “PERFECT GEAR AGENCY”, but has no meaning.

Based on the foregoing, the Board concluded the refusal shall be disaffirmed since the examiner erroneously found that the disputed mark gives rise to a pronunciation of “PGA” from the “PGA” monogram.

Louis Vuitton victory in trademark battle for remake use

In a trademark battle involving famous Louis Vuitton Monogram for remake use, the Japan IP High Court ruled in favor of Louis Vuitton and ordered appellant to pay 1.7 million JP-Yen for damages on October 23, 2018.

Custom-made Remake

Appellant has produced shoes, caps and other fashion items by making use of material of secondhand Louis Vuitton goods (see below) and promoted the items as a custom-made remake, e.g. LOUIS VUITTON REMAKE DENIM CAP/BLUE, through internet.

Unfair Competition Prevention Act

Louis Vuitton filed a lawsuit and demanded to stop selling the items as well as payment for the damage on the grounds that appellant’s act constitutes unfair competition under Article 2(1)(ii) of the Japan Unfair Prevention Act.

Article 2(1)(ii) of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act is a provision to prohibit any person from using a famous source indicator of another person without permission.


Appellant argued they become popular among relevant consumers as a business entity to produce a custom-made remake from secondhand of genuine brand. If so, since consumers are fully aware that the items are remake, neither faked goods nor brand-new article, confusion is unlikely to happen in the mind of consumers. Besides, appellant insisted as long as the Louis Vuitton Monogram is not used as a source indicator but design, the Unfair Competition Prevention Act is not applicable to the items.

IP High Court decision

The IP High Court decisively dismissed appellant’s allegations and decided the monogram on the items still plays a role of source indicator in view of remarkable reputation of Louis Vuitton Monogram. It can be easily presumed that average consumers at sight of the items shall conceive Louis Vuitton. Even if the items are sold as a custom-made remake or with any description to appeal the items made from secondhand, such facts will not affect the decision on the merit.
[Heisei 30 (Ne)10042]

The Unfair Competition Prevention Act is essential to the case where actual confusion would not happen in fact regardless of unauthorized commercial use of famous brand.