Speedo vs. Brooks A Non-Sporting Trademark Opposition

Brooks logoBrooks Sport submitted TM Application No. 238375 back in June 2011, for clothing, shoes and headgear in class 25.

speedo-logo

Speedo Holdings BV filed an Opposition the mark under Sections 11(6), 11(9), 11(13), 11(14), 11(5) and Section 39(a1) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972.

The Opposition was based on the alleged similarity to three Speedo marks, registered on July 1993 and shown below.

Opposer’s (Speedo’s) Statement of Case

speedo

The Opposer claims to have been established nearly 100 years ago, and to being one of the leading sports clothing manufacturers, particularly for sea and pool wear. Since the Seventies, the company has used their logo on swimwear, goggles, swimming caps, pool footwear (flip-flops?) and the like, but also for clothing for wearing in fitness centers and during aerobic activities.

The Opposer claims that due to their wide advertising and marketing activities and the quality and reliability of their products and the Speedo image, their logo has received wide acclaim worldwide, including in Israel. Their sports goods all sport their logo which is thus well-known.

Speedo has registered trademarks in classes 25 (clothing) 28 (games and exercise devices) 12, 14, 18 and 5.

In this regard, the three logos depicted above, Israel Trademarks 76627, 76632 and 76637 are cited.  76627 is just for the graphic logo. 76632 and 76637 include the graphic logo with the word SPEEDO. All three logos cover all goods in class 25.

The Opposer alleges that these marks are to be considered well-known marks as defined by Law due to their wide usage worldwide in general and in Israel in particular, and due to the publicity and advertising. The Opposer alleges that their logo is identical or at least very similar to Israel TM application no. 76627 to Brooks Sport, which also covers goods in class 25.

The Opposer further alleges that composite marks including the logo of Israel TM application no. 76627 and wording are also confusingly similar to Speedo’s marks, since the graphic element is dominant. The Opposer considers that allowing Israel TM application no. 76627 to register would cause the mark to be confused with their marks and would thus mislead the public regarding the source of the goods.

Since their mark is a well-known mark, it provides protection for similar but not identical goods, and so the fact that Speedo specializes in swimwear and Brooks in sports shoes, is of no consequence, and the bar for widening the protection is low and Speedo easily overcomes it.

Applicants’ (Brooks) Statement of Case

Brooks claims to be a long established, large and well-known manufacturer of shoes and sports goods, established back in 1914.

brooks earlier markBrooks considers that the pending mark is only minimally different from their registered Israel TM No. 82353 shown alongside.

Brooks submits that, by analogy, the new mark can also coexist with Speedo’s marks.

Brooks also considers that their graphic mark and Speedo’s mark are significantly different and there is no likelihood of consumers being misled. They note that Speedo have not documented any instances of actual confusion due to the alleged similarity and there are thus no grounds for concluding a real danger of misleading.

Brooks further notes that their goods and Speedo’s are very different, are intended for different consumers and are marketed in different ways.

Finally, the Applicant notes that Speedo have failed to establish any reputation in their logo alone (without wording) and so the claim that their mark is well-known should be rejected.

The Evidence

To support their claim, the parties submitted their evidence as follows. On 26 April 2014, Speedo submitted evidence with an affidavit from Mr Andrew Michael Long. On 21 July 2014, Brooks submitted their evidence with an affidavit from Mr David N Bohan and Mr Ilan Benisti. On 10 July 2015, Speedo forewent submitting a counter-statement in response.

Following submission of evidence, a hearing was set for 21 January 2016. Not long before this date, Speedo (represented by Pearl Cohen) submitted various interim proceedings and requests to postpone the hearing. On 17 January 2016, Speedo forewent cross-examining Brooks’ witnesses. In a ruling of 18 January 2016, the Adjudicator, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi rejected the interim requests and ordered Speedo’s witnesses to be available for the hearing.

Despite this, Speedo’s representative did not attend the hearing and was thus not available for cross-examination. This raised the question of whether their witness’ statement could remain on file, and what its evidentiary weight should be considered as being. On 1 February 2016, the Adjudicator ruled that the Affidavit should remain part of the file, but should be given low evidentiary weight.

DISCUSSION AND RULING

We are dealing with an Opposition to a trademark registration proceeding in which the burden of proof that the mark IS registerable, is initially on the applicant. However, the Opposer has to bear the burden of proof required to establish their opposition. If they succeed in so doing, the burden of proof moves from one side to the other as the proceeding proceeds. See, for example, Opposition to Israel TM Applicant No. 17051 Orange Personal Communications Services Limited vs. Gemcom LTD. 11 October 2009, and Opposition to Israel TM Application Numbers 175808 and 175809 Gizeh Manufacturing Company Greek Cooperative Cigarette vs. Raucherberdarf GmbH S.A. Sekap S.A. 6 February 2012.

Are the marks well-known?

It seems indisputable that the wordmark Speedo is well-known in Israel, and the Applicant and their witnesses do not dispute this. However, the question remains whether Speedo’s logo is now well-known in Israel. Speedo considers this to be case and relies on the long and wide-scale usage and the significant sums spent on promoting the brand around the world.

The term well-known mark is defined in the Ordinance as follows:

“Well-known trade mark” – a mark that is well-known in Israel as a mark owned by a person that is a citizen of a member state. A permanent resident of such state or who has an active business or factory in such state, even if the mark is not a trade mark registered in Israel or if there are no users of the mark in Israel; for the purposes of determining whether a trade mark is a well-known in public circles relating to it and the extent to which it is known as a result of marketing, shall be taken into account, inter alia;

As known, the sight and sound test is the central test of the three, and it considers the appearance of the marks in their entirety, emphasizing the first impression made by the comparison. The importance of the first impression is due to the simple reason that consumers do not stop to consider marks in their entirety. See for example, Appeal 6658/09 Multilock ltd. vs Rav Bareakh Industries ltd. paragraph 9 (12 January 2010).

In the Opinion of the Adjudicator, the graphic symbol of the Opposer is Israel TM No. 76627 which is very similar to the applied-for mark.

The Adjudicator does not consider the fact that Opposers’ mark is filled and the Applicant’s mark is defined by an outline as sufficient to create distinctiveness and to prevent confusion between them, particularly as it seems that Brooks uses the filled-in symbol. Nevertheless, she does not consider that one can fairly consider the combination marks of symbol and word Speedo of the Opposer with the symbol of Brooks.

Distribution Channels and Customers

In this instance, the Applicant argues that the applied for mark and the Opposer’s marks are not used on the same goods. Their position is that although both Applicant and Opposer manufacture sports goods, their goods are nevertheless in different categories since the Applicant’s goods are for running, whereas the Opposer’s goods are for swimming and water sports. It would appear that there is no need to give this further consideration since the Adjudicator has already ruled that these are goods of the same type. However, since we are considering the likelihood of misleading under Section 11(9) one has to consider the details of the mark. From this consideration it transpires that the Opposer’s (Speedo) marks are registered for the entire class 25, covering clothing per se, whereas the Applicant (Brooks) have applied for only some of the goods in class 25. From this it is clear that there IS overlap between the applied for range of goods of the Applicant and the range of goods covered by the Opposer’s mark. Because of this, the Applicant’s point that the marks are used for a different range of goods in practice is not acceptable.  Any consideration of the goods bearing the mark HAS to relate to the range of goods covered by the mark.

As to the customers, it seems that both Applicant and Opposer market their goods to the entire spectrum of people who engage in sporting activities, both professionals and amateur. So the customer base is identical. Nevertheless, it is likely that professional sporting people will be careful about what goods they purchase and will know the logos well. They will be more alert as the matter is of importance to them, so it is not reasonable to assume that this population will be misled. See re Bank Igud page 676, 673. However, this is not the case with amateurs, who purchase goods without much consideration, particularly when dealing with sports goods. For these consumers, it is not inconceivable that they will not be sufficiently attentive and could be confused or misled. In this instance, due to the similarity in goods for which the Speedo mark has been registered, it is not inconceivable that the Opposer will widen the scope of their business and only use the graphic element without the word Speedo. This could create misleading regarding the origin of the goods of Opposer and of the Applicant, which are both for class 25 and for the same family of goods.

As to marketing channels, the evidence shows that the Applicant’s goods are sold in both brand stores and general retail stores; however Speedo’s products are ONLY sold in Speedo stores. However, the Opposer, having a registered mark, could widen their distribution and sell in regular stores as well. So this test does indicate a danger of consumer confusion. See Appeal 4116/06 Gateway Inc. vs. Soundtrack Advanced Technologies ltd. 20 June 2007.

 Other considerations and Common Sense

This test includes the other case-specifics that should be considered when determining the likelihood of consumers being mislead by the similarity between the Applicant’s and the Opposer’s marks.

In this regard, the Adjudicator was not persuaded that the Applicant’s mark had acquired such significant recognition that overcome the risk of confusion with the Opposer’s graphic mark. There is a strong similarity between the visual appearance of the marks and between the goods covered, the customers and distribution channels.

Furthermore, the Adjudicator does not accept that the mark should be registerable since the sports field includes other marks that are very similar. This claim contradicts the Opposer’s other claim that the graphic marks of the Applicant and Opposer are distinctive and different.

A further claim raised by the Applicant was that their mark and the Opposer’s mark carry a different conceptual message. See paragraph 21 of Bohan’s affidavit. Whereas Speedo’s mark conveys the message of hydrodynamics, the Applied for mark is like a path and is more rounded and gives a sensation of flexibility, solidity and movement. The comparison of marks in light of subliminal messages was discussed at length in Appeal 8441/04 Unilever Plc vs. Eli Segev 23 August 2006 (Dove). The Opposer considers that this difference, even if acceptable, is not sufficient to overcome the similarities between the marks.

The Adjudicator does not accept the claim that the marks conjure up different messages. As the court ruled in the Dove decision, such messages are of value to the extent that they create a linkage between the product and the idea in the eye of the customer. In this instance, the Adjudicator is not convinced that the consumer would identify the Applied for mark with flexibility, stability and motion, and certainly this is not proven to be the case.

The Adjudicator also does not accept the Applicant’s claim that in this instance there is no likelihood of confusion since, despite the usage of both companies, there has never been a complaint of being misled in practice. The Adjudicator does not consider this lack of a complaint to be significant in establishing that there never was confusion or that there never will be confusion.

In light of the above, the triple test leads to the conclusion that there is a likelihood of confusion similarity between Speedo’s graphic mark and the applied-for mark. So Brook’s mark is refused under Section 11(9) of the Ordinance.

It is noted that to reach the conclusion of non-registerability under Section 11(9), the Adjudicator did NOT rely on the evidence supplied by the Opposer.  The burden of proof of registerability lies with the Applicant. The Adjudicator did not consider that the Applicant supplied sufficient proof, and so the onus was not transferred to the Opposer who did not need to demonstrate that the mark could not be registered.

The grounds of Opposition under Sections 11(5) and 11(6) and section 39a1 are moot.

Conclusion

In light of the above, the Opposition to Israel TM No. 238375 is accepted.

COMMENT

In general, the Adjudicator would be correct to give little weight to the fact that in the past, there has been not a single recorded case of customer confusion. However, in this instance, both Speedo and Brooks have a hundred year history.

nike

Not taking into account other marks has some validity, but in this instance, Brooks earlier registered mark is far closer to Speedo’s. Furthermore, there are a whole slew of other somewhat similar marks, such as Nike’s mark shown alongside.

Although Speedo has indeed registered their graphical mark for all goods in class 25 they do not make and have never made running shoes. The graphical mark was registered in 1990. 28 years later, if Speedo have not expanded into running shoes and there is no bona-fide indication that they intend to, Speedo’s registration should be amended to limit the range of goods to exclude running shoes. Possibly this should require Brooks and their representative to request this, but there is no overlap. There is no likelihood of confusion, and the marks are different.

In the circumstances, to rule that Brooks did not make a sufficient case to move the burden of proof to Speedo is frankly ridiculous.

 

One Response to Speedo vs. Brooks A Non-Sporting Trademark Opposition

  1. Ephry Eder says:

    I agree Michaelwith your comment and do not understand why Brooks did not seek rectification in respect of the conflicting goods on the grounds of non use.

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