Talber Pop LTD owns Israel trademark number 240598 “SMASH” for Notebooks, stationery, diaries, binders; gift wrapping paper, paper gift wrapping bows, paper cake decorations, paper party bags, loot bags, cello bags, paper party decorations, paper party hats, paper tables cloths, paper napkins, banner made of paper and/or cardboards; all included in class 16, and Backpacks, sidepacks, back bags, side bags, sport bags, tote bags, book bags, school bags, food bags, pencil cases sold empty, wallets, waist packs, briefcases, bike bags, toiletry cases sold empty, fanny packs, suitcases, umbrellas, umbrella covers; all included in class 18. They also own a second Israel trademark number 241238 for SMASH in class 14 covering watches, chronometers and their parts.
On 30 December 2017, Smash Enterprises Pty LTD submitted a request to cancel the marks or to allow their marks to be co-registered. On 2 March 2016, Talber Pop responded with their Counter-Statement of Case.
The request for cancellation followed an attempt by Smash Enterprises Pty LTD to register their Israel Trademark Application 274301. After various extensions were authorized, on 26 January 2017 the parties submitted a joint request for coexistence based on a civil court ruling under which they undertook to differentiate their services and goods.
Smash Enterprises Pty LTD’s mark was in class 21 and covered containers for household or kitchen use; household or kitchen utensils; containers for beverages; containers for food; heat insulated containers for beverages; heat retaining containers for food and drink; insulated containers; lunch boxes; isothermic bags; bottles including water bottles (containers); beverage coolers (containers); drinking containers; portable coolers; ice containers; ice packs; plastic containers (household utensils); lids for household or kitchen containers; tableware, including plates, dishes, drinking glasses, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and jugs, all being of plastic materials; cooking utensils for use with domestic barbecues; storage boxes, baskets and containers for household use; household rubbish containers (bins); glassware for domestic use; ceramic tableware; baking trays; storage jars; cooler bags; thermally insulated bags for food and drink.
Essentially, the two parties are interested in co-registration of Israel TM 274301 to Smash Enterprises together with those registered by Talber Pop LTD. (Smash Enterprises did have a second application in class 18, but seem to have abandoned that, as to allow the same mark for similar goods in the same class is particularly difficult).
The Commissioner can allow co-registration under Section 30a for identical or similar marks for identical or similar goods if the application to do is filed in good faith or if there are extenuating circumstances that allows coexistence.
The wording of Section 30(a) is as follows:
Where it appears to the Registrar that there is honest concurrent use, or where there are other special circumstances which in his opinion justify the registration of identical or similar trade marks for the same goods or description of goods by more than one proprietor, the Registrar may permit such registration subject to such conditions and limitations, if any as he may think fit. (b) A decision of the Registrar under subsection (a) shall be subject to appeal to the Supreme Court. The appeal shall be filled within thirty days from the date of the decision of the Registrar. In the appeal, the Court shall have all the powers conferred upon the Registrar under subsection (a).
The Applicant for coexistence has to prove that he is acting in good faith. Furthermore, he has to establish that despite the marks being identical or apparently similar to those registered, there is no practical risk that the consumer will confuse between the marks. In this regard, in the 87779/04 Yotvata vs. Tnuva ruling it is stated that:
In rulings [based on Section 30a of the Ordinance] the emphasis will be on the equitable behavior of the parties adopting the mark and on the need to protect the public from similar marks that might create misleading or unfair competition (Friedman p. 431).
See also 48827-03-14 Biosensors Europe SA vs. Commissioner of Patents from 22 February 2015:
The burden of proof that there is no likelihood of confusion falls on the two companies interested in the co-registration, and they have to prove that for many years they used the marks in Israel without the public being confused.
In this regard, the main thread running through the Ordinance is that identical or confusingly similar marks should not be registered if they will mislead the public. Thus in 10959/05 Delta Lingerie S.A.O.F vs Cachan Tea Board, India :7.12.06 :
Confusion and the risk of misleading is the living breath of the Ordinance. This is the main danger that we have to deal with. The various options of Section 11 that list marks that may not be registered reflect different types of confusion, and way to prevent them.
Where marks are more confusingly similar, the level of evidence that is required to show that there is no danger in their both being registered by Commissioner discretion under Section 30a is higher. See for example, the ruling concerning Israel TMs 24886 and 233056 Orbinka Investments LTD vs Now Securites Ohr Yehuda 1989 ltd., 24 July 2015 and 252115, 244719 Gaudi Trade SPA vs. Guess, Inc., 27 July 2016.
Alternatively, the Commissioner has to consider whether there are other special considerations that allow identical or similar marks for identical or similar goods.
In this instance the parties have reached a coexistence agreement following arbitration before Adv. Gai-Ron, and the Arbitrator of IP prefers constructive discussion and compromise rather than judicial ruling that are all or nothing. Nevertheless, the mere fact that the parties are interested in co-existing is insufficient to allow it where the is a likelihood of confusion. The Commissioner has the sole authority and responsibility to ensure that the Israel public are not confused by such marks, and such agreements are no more than an indication that must be weighed up with other considerations before allowing co-existence. See 1611/07 Micha Danziger vs. Shmuel Mor, 23 August 2012:
The desire of the parties that grow and market Gypsophila is one thing. The registration of confusingly similar marks is something else. Furthermore, and this is the important point – we are not relating to the parties’ consent, but to the balances in the law. The prohibition to register the requested mark is based on the need to protect consumers that were not party to the agreement between appellant and defender, (although such agreements may be indicative as part of a general analysis).
Thus it cannot be disputed that the Commissioner is not obliged to follow agreements between the parties. Nevertheless, in appropriate circumstances and where such agreements are valid, the Commissioner may allow co-existence based on such agreements – see 10105-05-16 Campalock ltd vs Commissioner of Patents, Trademarks and Designs 4/12/16.
In this instance, the parties submitted a two paragraph laconic request for co-existence stating that they had reached an agreement. However it is not enough to negotiate an agreement that serves the interests of the parties. A request to allow two pending applications to coexist or for a new application to be registered alongside an existing one must be justified by a detailed explanation showing why the public will not be confused.
There is no way to relate to whether the sides behaved equitably since the case should be closed before a hearing is conducted. The parties did not even address this issue in their request. The marks are identical for the word SMASH and there is certainly a similarity between schoolbags in class 18 and food bags and drink containers in Class 21 since these goods could be sold in the same retail outlets and there is therefore a room for confusion between goods in classes 18 and 21.
The Examiner reached a similar conclusion when she objected to the 2743011 mark under Section 11(9), and mere consent of the owner of a mark cited against a pending mark is insufficient to overcome a Section 11(9) objection.
The agreement does list the steps that the parties have undertaken to take, but this is insufficient. Firstly, the mark owner of the registered marks undertakes not to use a logo similar to that of the Applicant for cancellation, but the logo is not appended. An agreement not to use the same graphic is too narrow since the degree of similarity that is allowed is not related to. The registration would cause the register to be different from that happening in business.
Under the agreement, the side requesting cancellation would have the sole right to use the mark for boxes and containers for storing food and drink and the mark owner would be prohibited from so-doing. However, the mark owner’s registration 240598 (group 18) includes “food bags”. Food bags are essentially food storage bags. There is thus an overlap which creates confusion.
Thus the Arbitrator Ms Shoshani Caspi finds herself considering two identical marks for the word SMASH for two different entities that cover inter alia the same goods which creates a strong risk of confusion.
Consequently, as part of their joint submission. the parties should have provided a detailed explanation why TM 274301 in class 21 should be registerable together with TM 240598 in class 18. This wasn’t done, and the parties have provided no explanation as to how to avoid confusion. The request for coexistence is refused. The parties have until 1 June 2017 to inform whether they wish to conduct a cancellation proceeding.
Smash ruling, Ms Shoshani Caspi, 26 April 2017.
The ruling is solid and both parties were represented. The parties are interested in compromising. The Patent and Trademark Office have to consider the public interest and to prevent confusion, but nevertheless one wonders why the arbitrator did not simply request that the parties relate to a list of issues that their agreement does not address, rather than to refuse the request.