Tambour and Nirlit are both Israeli paint manufacturers.
Tambour filed a trademark for Sahara as a shade of paint. They filed for accelerated examination, and three weeks later the mark issued for opposition purposes.
The opposition period is three months, and on the final day, an examiner published a decision to allow the mark.
Nirlit submitted a mark for Sahara themselves on the final day of the opposition period and then requested that Tambour’s notice of allowance be cancelled, and the marks be considered as competing marks. The Examiner cancelled the mark and both sides have been fighting as to whether the cancellation was correct, whether it should be considered as void, and whether the court of the Israel Trademark Office is the correct jurisdiction or whether Tambour should have to appeal to the District Court to have the allowance reinstated.
The wording of the ordinance refers to “a competing mark being filed before a pending mark is allowed”. The legal issues boil down to whether decisions can be cancelled and what the word before means.
Other issues raised included whether Nirlit should have informed Tambour of their filing and of the cancellation of the Notice of Allowance. Did Tambour have rights to request amendments to Nirlit’s application?
The Adjudicator of Patents and Trademarks, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi did a fine piece of analysis and more or less sorted out the mess.
According to the ruling, trademark decisions are administrative decisions that can be withdrawn. The term “earlier” should be interpreted as meaning up until midnight of the previous day.
According to the ruling, the Examiner was not incorrect to allow Tambour’s mark, but was wrong to cancel the decision to allow it once it had issued. This decision is an administrative decision that can be withdrawn.
Once the marks are not co-pending, there is no competing marks scenario. All interim rulings are ex-parte. There is no obligation to inform the other party who has absolutely no standing.
The mark is retro-actively considered as published and Nirlit had two days left to file an opposition.
No costs were awarded to either side.
I think this ruling is the best of a bad job. I don’t think we need to interpret earlier as the previous day. the notice of allowance for Tambour’s had issued before Nirlit’s was entered into the system. One hand does not need to now what the other is doing. All Examiners need to check what has been done.
Since there was no pending mark for Nirlit at the time that Tambour’s mark was allowed, the notice of allowance was correct. It can happen that one department is more efficient than an other.
Retroactive publication for opposition purposes is problematic since in addition to Nirlit, it is not inconceivable that a third party may have a problem with the name.
Western Sahara is a disputed territory and most of the players involved do not recognize Israel. I am not sure that that will necessarily stop them from complaining about the place name being used to denote a shade of paint.