Angel’s Bread

Angelbread

No, this decision has nothing about Bread of Heaven which is more formally known as Cwm Rhondda, or even about Manna, the fabled bread eaten by the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt on the way to the Holy Land.

Shlomo A. Angel LTD in Jerusalem is Israel’s largest bakery, and is also the largest bakery in the Middle East. It supplies 275,000 loaves of bread and 275,000 bread rolls a day. The bakery also carries a range of 250 cakes and biscuits, including roggeluch, of course.

There is a smaller bakery called Engel Y. Pattisserie and Baking Goods LTD.
The two bakeries each submitted trademark applications that included the word angel or engel in Hebrew  (אנגל) where vowels are not written, and whether a g is a soft g as in giraffe or a hard g as in gamma is generally indicated by a dagesh or dot in the letter but also not shown in words printed without vowels. Actually, Yemenites are the only group that pronounce the jalet sound in regular Hebrew. Angel writes their name with an apostrophe indicating that it is a foreign word, pronounced Anjel.

Due to possible likelihood of confusion regarding the origin of good thus marked, a competing marks procedure under Section 29 of the Israel Trademark Ordinance is called for. Under Section 29, the Israel Patent Office considers the application dates, the extent of usage and the equability or otherwise of the behaviour of the applicants in order to determine whose rights are stronger and which marks should be examined first. Only then, is the eligibility of the mark under Section 11 considered.

In this instance for some reason, probably a mistake on the part of the Trademark Division, b0th competing mark objections and substantive objections based on previously registered marks were raised against the applications submitted by Angel Y. Pattisserie and Baking Goods LTD.

Shlomo A. Angel LTD’s representatives suggested that it would be more efficient to consider the eligibility of the marks first, and only then, if both marks are considered eligible, to have the competing marks procedure to consider which applicants pending marks should be registered first.

The advantage of first looking at basic eligibility is to avoid wasting time and resources on a competing mark decision only to have the prevailing mark then refused. However, the problem with this approach is two-fold. Firstly, even if one or both pending marks are considered eligible sans consideration of the other competing mark, once the competing mark procedure is initiated, the mark that wins that procedure can then be cited against the other mark, so the substantive examination occurs twice. Secondly, having a hearing to decide whether to follow or deviate from procedure is itself time-confusing. Nevertheless, if both parties agree, it may make sense.

In this instance there was no consensus between the parties, to suspend the competing marks procedure and to first examine the marks themselves. This leads to the question of whether it is ever legitimate to deviate from the procedure set out in the relevant Patent Office Commissioner’s Circular, and to decide on registerability first, and competing marks issues afterwards.

In this instance, both bakeries filed a number of trademark applications which were copending.  On 26 May 2014, Shlomo A. Angel LTD filed Israel TM Application Number 265729 for Conditoriat Angel (A conditoria קונדיטוריה is a patisserie in Hebrew, so this means Angel’s Patisserie). The mark covers flour, grain products, bread, baked goods, sweets, yeast and baking powder in class 29. On 19 October 2014, Shlomo A. Angel LTD filed Israel TM Application Number 269159 and 269160 for Angeli and Angelino for the same list of goods.

On 24 November 2014, Conditoriat Engel Y. Baked Goods LTD. Filed Israel TM Application Number 269996 for Engel Cookies in class 29, also covering flour, and grain based goods, baked goods and sweets and Israel TM Application Number 269997 for the same goods.
In addition to the competing goods procedure, Section 11(9) objections were raised against Conditoriat Engel Y. Baked Goods LTD. on account of earlier marks to Shlomo A. Angel LTD that included Angel’s Bakery Jerusalem, Angel Oranim, Women’s light bread, phyto bread, Angel’s bread in the French style and Angel 100. So if Conditoriat Engel Y. Baked Goods LTD.’s marks were to win the competing marks procedure and be examined first, they could subsequently be refused on grounds relating to previously registered marks owned by Shlomo A. Angel LTD.

The competing marks procedure is thus arguably flawed in that it relates to co-pending marks without taking into account previously issued marks.

Shlomo A. Angel LTD requested that the applications filed by Conditoriat Engel Y. Baked Goods LTD should be first examined on their merits, possibly rendering the competing marks procedure moot.

Conditoriat Engel Y. Baked Goods LTD disagreed. They requested that the competing marks procedure should occur first, as per the relevant circular, since the competing marks procedure started by the commissioner indicates an assumption of validity on the merits, citing BAGATZ 228/65 Fromein and sons vs. Pro Pro Biscuits from 1965, which was based on Section 17 of the old ordinance which corresponds to section 29 of the current version. There is was stated:

“the question of which of the competing marks takes precedence for examination, is a court ruling that is final, whereas the question of registerability, is one that at that stage, the Commissioner neither made or was able to make. Deciding which mark is preferable in the competing marks proceeding is “subject to other requirements of the law”. Thus a section 17 (now 29) proceeding does not determine which mark is registered, it is based on a working assumption that marks are registerable…”

The Commissioner did not consider that Fromein was relevant to the current case. In Fromein, the side prevailing in the competing marks procedure was examined first, allowed for publication and then successfully opposed. The issue was whether the proceeding marks ruling was to be understood as indicating that the mark was otherwise allowable and the answer was that it was not. In Fromein, the Commissioner’s competing mark decision was not based on consideration of the mark on its merits and does not indicate that the mark was otherwise allowable. Furthermore, citing BAGATZ 450/80 EL Khadaer, “there is nothing to prevent the Examiner preferring one mark to be examined first under a Section 29 proceeding when, based on the evidence, he does not consider either mark may be registered on its merits. This indicates that the Examiner CAN choose to examine the marks on their merits within the Section 29 procedure. This also indicates that despite a question regarding registerability on the merits of one of the marks having been raised, the Commissioner may choose to continue to discuss which mark takes precedence.”

Nevertheless, the Commissioner was not happy about allowing one mark to take precedence in a competing marks procedure to have the other mark refused, if subsequently the mark taking precedence were to be refused on its merits requiring the other party to resubmit and cited the competing marks ruling regarding 1667390 and 166845 Ilan Danino vs. Keshet Transmissions LTD from 26 December 2005 which came to a similar conclusion.

Clearly, it is inefficient to hold a competing marks ruling only to subsequently refuse on its merits the mark that takes precedence. The Circular allows the parties the opportunity to agree for a preliminary ruling on the registerability of the marks, and this assumes that where the parties do not have strong contrary feelings, such an eventuality will occur, and where there are earlier registrations, the issue of distinguishing features will be considered.

However, as occurred in this case, where one party’s earlier marks were cited against the pending mark and a Section 29 proceeding were initiated together, the parties have different interests regarding the order of proceedings and may not agree.
Reserving the right to raise registerability issues before himself, instead of before trademark examiners, the Commissioner ruled that the section 29 proceeding should take place but before other issues are addressed, Conditoriat Engel Y. Baked Goods LTD were given 30 days to respond to the registerability objection based on the earlier Angel’s marks. Furthermore, to avoid things being dragged out, no extensions to the substantive examination would be allowed apart from in exceptional cases.
Ruling by Asa Kling, Angel vs. Engel, 24 January 2016.

COMMENT

This is not a bad decision from a procedural point of view, but it does not really address any of the questions. The issue is efficiency for all concerned, so why not revise the Circular to give the patent office authority to initiate a competing marks procedure earlier or later in the examination depending on previously registered marks?

Alternatively, why not decide whether or not a proceeding marks procedure is warranted BEFORE issuing objections on other grounds?

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