Repeated Requests for Reconsideration Smashed

smash batmanBack in May 2017 we reported that 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, and that Smash Enterprises Pty LTD submitted a request to cancel the Talber Pop LTD marks or to allow their marks to be co-registered.

The parties were interested in coexisting, but MS Shoshani Caspi considered it against the public interest in view of the likelihood of confusion. See here.

Ms Shoshani related to the request, but first detailed the conditions for reconsideration.  The correct way to attack a judicial ruling is by Appealing to a higher court, and not by way of reconsideration. See Appeal 5012/01 Jacobovitz vs. Lerner 11 July 2001 where the following is stated:

Parties that argue and return over again to the court cannot expect an advantage. If the party considers that there was a mistake in the ruling, they should timely file an appeal.

Nevertheless, the case-law allows reconsideration in two instances: where there has been a significant change in circumstances that justifies reconsideration, and where there was a technical error in the ruling. See Appeal 7869/17 E.R.M. Properties vs.Daniel Ohr, 23 November 2017 where Judge Minz of the Supreme Court ruled that:

The rulings of this court recognize two circumstances where a ruling can be reconsidered in a reconsideration, other than interim injunctions which are explicitly legislated in regulation 368 of the Civil Procedure Regulations. The first instance is where there has been a significant change of circumstances, and the second case is where the court made a serious and clear technical error – see Appeal 1474/11 Strauss Marketing vs. Orman, paragraph 13, 14 July 2011; 3604/02 OKO vs Shemi p.d. 56(4) 505, 508 (2002), and Tami bin Nun and Tal Habakin “Civil Appears p. 427 edition 3, 2012.

Over the years there has been a worry that parties would make improper use of the opportunity of interim procedures to request reconsideration (see for example, 8420/96 Margaliyot vs. Mishkan Bank HaPoalim for Mortgages LTD (31 July 1997). So it was established that courts can simply throw out such requests on the grounds of improper use of the court proceedings, particularly where the party requests reconsideration over and over. That written in 5168/01 Reuveni vs. Ben Harush 28 Oct 2001 is relevant here:

RepeatFiling repeat requests that are minor improvements of the original request puts an unreasonable burden on the courts. Requesting reconsideration as a routine event is burdensome, and prevents the court providing a service for all its users.

In re Jakobovitz, then registrar of the Supreme Court Boaz Okan noted that:

The creative multiplication of proceedings, notices, reconsiderations and the like, are symptomatic of loose and unravelling systems (Appeal 502/00 Airport Authority vs. Epkon. There is no place to create cross-species rulings that damage the finality of the Court’s decision and may cause the legal proceedings to drag on forever., by misusing the civil procedures and wasting legal resources.

On 30 December 2015, Smash Enterprises Pty LTD requested to cancel the Talber Pop LTD’s marks for SMASH in classes 16 and 18.

The request for cancellation followed Smash Enterprises Pty LTDs attempt to register SMASH as a trademark in class 21 that was refused under Section 11(9).

Smash Enterprises Pty LTDs  application no 274301 is for 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. In class 21.

Talber Pop LTD’s mark 24059 is for Watches of all kinds; chronometers and part thereof and accessories; all included in class 14, 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 for 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.

coexistOn 26 January 2017, the parties jointly requested coexistence following a mediation proceeding connected to a civil complaint filed by Smash Enterprises Pty LTD against Talber Pop LTD (Civil Complaint 65168-12-16). The request for coexistence under Section 30 was submitted with a copy of the agreement between the parties.

On 26 April 2017, Ms Shoshani Caspi explained in detail why she considered coexistence to be inappropriate as follows:

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.

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.

On 16 October 2017 a first request for reconsideration of the decision of 26 April  was received.  In that framework, the party who had requested cancellation noted that they were abandoning the 274302 and 274158 marks for SMASH in classes 18 and 16, despite the fact that the coexistence agreement didn’t relate to those marks. Additionally, the mark owner noted that they were prepared to strike the term ‘food boxes’ from the list of goods of Israel TM 240598.

On the same day, the Adjudicator Ms Shoshani Caspi again rejected the coexistence agreement stating:

There is before me a request for reconsideration of coexistence of the marks based on the agreement reached by the parties, following my rejecting this possibility in my ruling of 24 April 2017. The parties chose to ignore the significant obstacles that prevent coexistence that were stated in paragraphs 18, 21 and 24 of my previous decision. So the petition is rejected.

On 22 October 2017, the parties again requested reconsideration for a second time, restating their positions and claiming that their agreement does not leave room for confusion between the marks. On 25 October 2017, a detained ruling was issued that again rejected the coexistence stating:

I have not found that an error occurred in my ruling of 26 April 2016 (or indeed of that of 16 October 2017). The parties return and make exactly the same claims a third time. Consequently I do not find that there has been a change in circumstances from those under which the original decision and the appeals were given that justifies further reconsideration. Although unnecessary to do so, I note, again, that we are talking about an attempt to register exactly the same mark for goods having a similar commercial nature, without the appropriate and fitting difference between them. Consequently, the petition[ for coexistence]  is rejected a third time.

nagOn 11 January 2018, the parties submitted a third request for reconsideration of the 25 October 2017 ruling, raising the same arguments. Additionally this time the mark owner requested to remove the term “cases (files) of..”

The Deputy Commissioner does NOT consider this amendment as being a “Significant change in circumstances or a technical error that warrants reconsideration of the ruling of 26 April 2017.

The third request for reconsideration is rejected. The Adjudicator is not happy with attempts to negotiate with the court of the Israel Patent and Trademark Office by unsupported requests for reconsideration. She considers these requests adds to the workload of the patent office staff and requires detailed responses and is inappropriate. She considers it would be appropriate to rule costs against the parties to be paid into the public fund but will refrain from doing so this time.

Ms Shoshani Caspi’s problem is that sports bags and school bags may be in different categories from food storage bags and flasks but the requested mark is for words and school bags and sports bags do sometimes have pockets for food, so she considers that different suppliers cannot use the same word mark for these goods, despite registering in different classes (19 and 21). Indeed, in absence of evidence to the contrary, the goods can be considered as complimentary  goods in the same broad category that are often used together, such that the reasonably consumer will assume a common source. See the HRA Laboratoire Pharma vs. Fr Shapira Eyal ltd ruling of 28 December 2017:

With respect to complimentary goods, one has to consider if there is a tight relationship between them, that one is required or significant to the other, or that the consumer is likely to consider that the provision of the goods is the responsibility of the same supplier.

The parties have still not provided any evidence that undermines the Adjudicator’s conclusions regarding a commercial link between the goods, and have only made unsupported statements to the effect that the food packaging supplied by the requester for cancellation is not sold in the same stores as the bags of the mark owner.

Thus, as determined more than once in this proceeding, the certain similarity between the goods listed in issued mark no. 240598 in section 18 and those in application 274301 in class 21, and the identical nature of the two marks (both word marks for SMASH), leaves a high likelihood of similarity which may result in consumer confusion.

As to the obligation undertaken in the coexistence agreement by the mark owners not to use a stylize graphic rendering of SMASH, this was discussed in the 26 April 2017 ruling, and can simply be recited: “it is difficult to ignore the situation where the patent and trademark registrar allows the parties to make use of the word in any style they see fit, merely because of a narrow contractual agreement between the parties, and the trademark register does not faithfully match the trade situation.”

The parties repetitively made shallow claims that the District Court endorsed the coexistence agreement and gave it the status of a court ruling. Examination of the agreement, sections 3 and 4 thereof, indicate that the mark owner obliged himself not to object to the registration of the word “SMASH” by the requester for cancellation in classes 16 and 18, and the requester for cancellation obligated himself to cancel the requests for cancellation.  It is assumed that the learned legal representatives (Eitan Mehulal for Smash Enterprises and Eyal Plum for Talber Pop) did not intend to accidentally claim that this can be interpreted as the court endorsing the right for the Smash Enterprises mark to be registered, since it is known that the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks has the sole authority to register marks under Section 17(a) of the Ordinance. Thus one has to assume that the court endorsement of the coexistent agreement only obliges the parties themselves.

As we are dealing with the authority of the Israel Patent and Trademark Office, it should be noted that Section 30a allows and does not obligate the commissioner to allow coexistence of identical or confusingly similar marks. Furthermore, in the court ruling 48837-03-14 Biosensors Europe SA  vs the Patent Office 22 February 2015 it was stated that “the burden of proof that there is no confusing similarity is on the companies interested in parallel usage, to show that they have been using the mark in parallel for many years and it has not caused the public to be confused”. For more discussion, see here and here. As stated above, in this instance the parties have not met this burden.

not a rubber stampThus it is ruled that the parties legal representatives (Eitan Mehulal for Smash Enterprises and Eyal Plum for Talber Pop) failed to submit appropriate evidence to support their request for coexistence under Section 30a of the Ordinance, and merely supported their request with the in personam coexistence agreement. The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks is NOT a rubber-stamp that endorses agreements between warring parties and though allowed to, is not obliged to consider them. The main obligation of the Commissioner is to maintain the integrity of the trademark register and this includes ensuring that there is no likelihood of misleading the public. This forum has established many times that a request for coexistence by the parties does not exert much influence on deciding whether or not to allow such coexistence under section 30a, and is at best an indication that coexistence may be possible that has to be considered with all the considerations, see Supreme Court ruling 1611/07 Micha Danziger cs. Shmuel Mor, 23 August 2012. 

On 3 January 2018, the Adjudicator gave the parties 14 days to submit their evidence, i.e., until 17 January 2018, or the cancellation proceeding would be closed.  The parties have failed to provide such evidence and have also failed to request an extension. The Adjudicator has not ignored the request from the parties to provide guidance for how to restrict the lists of goods to allow coexistence, but she is not clear why this is necessary in light of all the decisions referenced, and does not intend to provide such guidance.

Conclusion – since the Requester for Cancellation has not provided evidence to support his case as asked to, and since no request for extensions of time were submitted, the cancellation proceedings against Israel Trademarks 240598 and 241238 are closed. The Requester for Cancellation is not prevented from filing a new trademark cancellation request if it will be conducted in accordance with the timeframe.

Israel Trademarks 240598 and 241238 “SMASH”, Decision to reject Cancellation Request by Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi,  18 January 2018.   

 

 

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