Polo

256843David Ibgy, who markets fashion goods, submitted Israel Trademark Number 256843 on 26 June 2013 for clothing under Section 25. The mark was allowed on 17 November 2014 and published for opposition purposes.

The mark is shown alongside.

 

82802On 27 February 2017, Lifestyle Equities CV opposed the mark. Lifestyle Equities CV is a Dutch company that has several Israeli distributors that sell clothing under their IL 82802 mark, which was registered in November 1995 in category 25 for clothing, shoes and head coverings. Their mark is shown alongside:

 

The Opposer’s Claims

The Opposer claims that their mark was developed in Los Angeles, USA, in 1982 as a mark that implies quality. Goods were sold under the mark in known chain stores in Israel, such as HaMashbir and Keds Kids, Errocca and in other fashion stores across the country.

The Opposer claims that the dominant element is the horse and rider and so the applied for mark is similar enough to their registered mark that it could be misleading and so is not registerable under Sections 11(6), 11(9) and 11(13) of the Trademark Ordinance.

To strengthen this contention, the Opposer notes that both they and the applicant use the mark for off-the-shelf clothing and consumers have inaccurate recall and so the marks are visually confusingly similar.

The Opposer notes that the two marks are directed to the same goods and that clothing with the marks are sold by the Applicant via similar distribution channels to those used by the Opposer, and the target clientele in both cases is the Israeli clothing and fashion-wearing public.

The Opposer alleges that the two marks share a similar conceptual idea that will confuse the public into thinking that the Applicant’s goods are supplied by the Opposer. Both marks have a side view of a rampant horse mounted by a polo player with a raised mallet within a ring of circles. The Opposer considers the relative proportions between the horse and the circular frame as being almost the same in the two cases.

Furthermore, Opposer alleges that due to their intensive use in Israel and the world, their mark has a reputation and may even be considered as being a well-known mark as defined in the ordinance. Due to the well-known nature of the mark, the likelihood for the public being mislead is increased.

The Opposer [Applicant in ruling, but this is a mistake – MF] therefore concludes that the situation may occur wherein the public will purchase the Applicant’s goods thinking them as being provided by the opposer or somehow connected with the Opposer, and so the pending mark is disqualified from registration by Sections 11(13) and 11(14) of the Ordinance. If the pending mark is registered, it could dilute the Opposer’s registered mark.

The Opposer claims that the Applicant acted in bad faith by choosing the horse and rider and was attempting to free-ride on the Opposer’s reputation which has been carefully established over many years. The Opposer considers the mark as representing unfair competition and is thus contrary to sections 11(6) and 12 of the Ordinance.

Furthermore, the Opposer considers the Applicant’s testimony as untrustworthy and that the Applicant has a long history of copying well-known marks and that the current mark was created by selecting elements from established marks, and so is allegedly non-registerable due to Section 11(5) of the Ordinance.

In the framework of their agreement, the Opposer claims that in addition to the applicant trying to copy the general circular appearance of the Opposer’s marks, he also chose to incorporate the olive branches that were allegedly copied from Israel Registered Trademark No. 227079 to Fred Perry (Holdings Ltd).

The Opposer also considered the applied for mark as lacking distinctive character, and thus contrary to Section 8(a) of the Ordinance, this due to the mark lacking anything unique.

Applicant’s Claims

On 22 April 2015, the Applicant responded with their counter-statement of case.  Applicant considers that there is no danger of confusion of unfair competition because the pending mark has to be considered in its entirety and in addition to the rampant horse and rider of the Opposer, the Opposer’s mark includes the words Beverly Hills and Polo Club, which are not elements of the pending mark. Applicant considers these words as central elements that are engraved in the consumer’s consciousness.

The Applicant adds that the common element of the rampant horse and rider were not created by the Opposer but have a long history in the fashion industry.

The Applicant accuses the Opposer of taking inspiration for their mark from Ralph Lauren, US Polo Association and others, and referred to such marks in use in Israel (see appendices to counter-statement of case and affidavit. The Applicant notes that the fact that the claimed motif is common and in widespread use is accepted by the international case-law.

As to the marks being confusingly similar, the pending mark has the letters PJ and not Polo Club, the marks are pronounced differently; the Opposer’s mark is jumping, whereas the applied for mark has three legs, the Opposer’s mark has a circular ring whereas the applied for mark has olive branches.

The Applicant claims to be targeting the popular market that purchases clothing in shops, bazaars and public markets whereas the Opposer is targeting an exclusive clientele by referring to the Beverly Hills Polo Club. This alone should be enough to differentiate between the Applicant’s and Opposer’s goods and distribution channels.

Finally, the Applicant considers that relating to the olive branches as being confusingly similar to those of the Fred Perry mark was only raised in the summations and is thus an illegitimate widening of the issues beyond the Statement of Case.

The Evidence

On 21 September 2015, an affidavit was submitted by Mr Eli Hadad, the director and owner of the Opposer. Similarly, the Opposer submitted an affidavit by David Bar, the director and owner of Beverly Hills Fashion Ltd which manufacturers, imports and distributes the Opposer’s products since 2008 under a franchise from Lifestyle Licensing.

On 22 November 2015, the Applicant submitted their evidence together with an affidavit. On 11 September 2016, a hearing was held, during which the parties cross-examined each other’s witnesses. The parties submitted their summaries and now the time is ripe to issue a ruling.

The Ruling

The ruling related to the following issues:

  1. Did the Opposer widen their front of attack such that references to Fred Perry and the olive branches should be struck from the record?
  2. Is the Opposer’s mark a well-known mark as defined by the Ordinance?
  3. Is there a danger of the similarity causing confusion?
  4. Did Applicant act in bad-faith in choosing the mark?

Since the argument regarding similarity to the Fred Perry mark was first mentioned in the summation, it is indeed an illegitimate widening and should be struck. However, to bring things to a final conclusion, the Adjudicator addressed this issue substantively.

Is the Opposer’s Mark Well-Known?

The Ordinance defines well-known marks and the Adjudicator went through the usual hoops, citing the Absolut and Pentax cases. The Opposer notes that Lifestyle Equities CV is one of the top 100 licensing companies. However, the Adjudicator noted that this says nothing regarding whether the specific brand and mark is well-known in Israel. The Opposer failed to establish that the brand was widely promoted in Israel. The distributor, Erroca, is widely known, but as a distributor of eye-glasses. Facebook followers and the like were not considered persuasive either. There also remained a problem that even if Beverly Hills Polo Club is a well-known brand, that does not mean that the horse and polo player are well-known.

Is there a danger of the similarity causing confusion?

Here the Adjudicator applied the triple test; the appearance of the marks being the issue rather than their sound since PJ and Polo Club sound rather different.

There is a similarity in that both marks include a horse and rider, but the horse and rider appear different, and there are other elements that are found in only one mark or the other.

Notably, unlike in similar oppositions abroad, the mark in Israel does not include the term Polo Club and the Opposer did not bring a market survey to show the similarity.

Citing the 212574 ,211841  Nautica Inc ruling from 15 February 2012:

Registration of a trademark does not provide a monopoly for a concept, such as someone holding a golf club or riding a horse, but only for the specific rendering of the idea in the mark.

The marks were not considered confusing.

 

Did Applicant act in bad-faith in choosing the mark?

The Opposer suggested that the PJ letters were taken from the trademark number 103307 for Polo Jeans Co. owned by the Polo/Lauren Company, and since the Applicant was a former worker of Polo US he could not claim ignorance of this mark. The Opposer also noted that the Applicant admitted to having a reputation for fake goods.

The Adjudicator did not find the allegations sufficiently compelling. This was also the case with the similarity between the olive branches of the trademark and of Fred Perry, which are both different.

CONCLUSION

The Adjudicator Ms Shoshani Caspi concluded that the alleged similarity between the marks did not pose a danger of misleading the consumers regarding the origin of the goods. This made the existence of absence of distinctive elements moot, since the claim was raised by the Opposer solely to base the claim of misleading similarity.

The Opposition was rejected and, using her powers under Section 69 of the Ordinance, the Adjudicator Ms Shoshani Caspi ordered Lifestyle to pay 7000 Shekels + VAT in costs.

COMMENT

I found the argument that the Applicant’s mark was for the fashion-conscious common polo-playing man, whereas the Opposer’s mark was for smart Beverly Hills playing polo set, rather amusing.

I suspect that Fred Perry’s olive branches and those of the Applicant are actually laurels.

The decision is reasonable. However, it seems contrary to the Tigris ruling. However, in general, there does not seem to be a great deal of consistency with trademark rulings.

There was an interim request by Ivgy that Lifestyle post a bond to cover costs should they lose. This was refused.

 

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