Trade-mark Oppositions: When “Close” becomes “Too Close”

When is one trade-mark too close to another? This is a question that we work through collaboratively with our trade-mark clients. The short answer is: “It depends…” The long answer is illustrated by these two recent cases. A trade-mark owner can apply for registration of the trade-mark, and part of the application process involves an opportunity for competitors to oppose the application. Most applications proceed without any opposition. If a trade-mark does face opposition, it is handled through a proceeding that is ultimately decided by the Trade-marks Opposition Board (TMOB). Here are two examples:

  1. POMEPURE vs. POM WONDERFUL, both for beverages. In the case of Opposition by PomWonderful LLC to application No. 1,389,758 for the trade-mark POMEPURE & Design in the name of Rash Nagar, the TMOB considered the mark POMEPURE, for a range of beverages. The application was opposed by the owners of the POM WONDERFUL marks for fruit beverages. The Board decided that both marks were weak marks lacking inherent distinctiveness. Thus, neither mark was entitled to a wide scope of protection. Using so-called state-of-the-register evidence, the applicant showed at least 10 other POM-related marks for various fruit-based beverages, all owned by different owners. The Board concluded that ”consumers would be accustomed to some extent to seeing marks made up of the prefix ‘POM’ in the marketplace for alcoholic and/or non-alcoholic beverages. Accordingly, those consumers would be likely to distinguish such marks by focusing on their other components.” For that reason, the opposition failed and the mark was allowed to proceed.
  2. CAMILION vs. CAMÉLÉON & Design, both for software. In Opposition by Cameleon Software SA to application No. 1,422,576 for the trade-mark CAMILION in the name of Camilion Solutions Inc. a software company applied for the trade-mark CAMILION, but was opposed by the owner of the registered mark CAMÉLÉON & Design. An applicant has to prove that the absence of confusion is more probable than its existence. After weighing the Section 6(5) factors, the TMOB decided that the two marks were too close. The applicant’s mark was refused due to confusion with the existing registered CAMÉLÉON & Design mark.

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