On 30 November 2016 Panama Jack International Inc filed a request to cancel Israel TM No. 79829 for Panama Jack in class 25. The registered trademark, then owned by Grupp Internacional S.A., is shown alongside.
Back in March 2017, the Adjudicator of Intellectual Property Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi issued an interim ruling that since Grupp Internacional S.A., though represented by an Israel Law firm, did not file a response to the cancellation proceedings instituted by Panama Jack International Inc., Panama Jack can supply their evidence and she would rule on the cancellation proceeding if the arguments were persuasive.
On 2 April 2017, Panama Jack International submitted an Affidavit from Mr Erez Drucker, director of Access (Xes? Axes? Excess?) Private Investigators, to support their allegation that the mark was not in use by Grupp. Again Grupp failed to respond, despite having legal representation back then.
On 21 August 2017, Panama Jack International requested a decision despite the lack of response. On 28 March 2018 they requested to add a further Affidavit, this time from Mr Ronen Menashe, director of “”Information Services of Israel”. Again, the owner failed to respond.
(On 2 October 2017, Grupp’s attorneys requested to cease representing their client for various reasons that Ms Shoshani Caspi considers justified. On 10 October 2017 they submitted an affidavit to the effect that the client’s local attorney in Spain knew about the hearing. On 23 October 2017, Ms Shoshani Caspi assented to the request).
Now, on 23 May 2018, a hearing was held before Ms Shoshani Caspi, which Grupp and their representatives did not bother attending, despite knowing about the date thereof. Panama Jack International requested to withdraw the Affidavit by Mr Erez Drucker and to replace it with that of Mr Ronen Menashe who was available for questioning at the hearing. This request was granted. During the hearing, a recording of conversations between Mr Menashe and the Spanish office that was referred to in the Affidavit was also listened to.
Discussion and Ruling
The question in this instance is whether there is justification to cancel the issued mark. Section 41(a) of the Trademark Ordinance states:
- [a] Without prejudice to the generality of the provision of indicate sections 38 to 40, application for the cancellation of the Registration Madrid of a trade mark regarding some or all of the goods or classes of amendments goods in respect of which a trade mark is registered (hereinafter – goods regarding which the cancellation is requested) may be made by any person interested on the ground that there was no bona fide intention to use the trade mark in connection with the goods for which it is registered in connection with the goods regarding which there is a request to cancel the registration and that there has in fact been no bona fide use of the trade mark in connection with those goods in connection with the goods regarding which there is a request to cancel the registration, or that there had not been any such use during the three years preceding the application for cancellation. [b] The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply where it is proved
Thus the relevant period regarding usage of the mark by Grupp is from 30 November 2013 to 30 November 2016 when the cancellation request was submitted.
In this instance, as stated above, the mark owner failed to respond to the cancellation request, and did not even request extensions. Panama Jack International, did however, submit their evidence.
During the hearing, Mr Menashe’s integrity was examined and from his evidence and responses, Ms Shoshani Caspi was assured that he was trustworthy. Mr Menashe’s opinion included a survey and investigation of the relevant markets in Israel (i.e. clothing and footwear) in an attempt to find stores that sold goods bearing the Panana Jack man in the relevant time-period. In addition, his office searched the Internet for evidence that goods bearing the mark were available in Israel at the relevant time. He determined who owned the mark and the identities of the leading employees of the company to contact them directly to determine usage of the mark in Israel. Within the framework of Mr Menashe’s investigation, neither he nor his investigators found any indication of sale of goods under the Panama Jack trademark in the relevant time period.
It is established case-law that a registered trademark is a property right for all intents and purposes, that cannot be whittled away without cause. The burden of proof that a mark was not used lies with the challenger of the mark. See for example, Bagatz 476/82 Orlogd ltd vs. the Commissioner of Patents p.d. 39 (2) 148. During a proceeding, the burden of proof passes back and forth. Thus the requester for cancellation of a mark has to bring evidence that a mark is not in use. If this is proven, the burden of proof then falls on the mark owner to attack the challenger’s evidence and to establish that the mark is indeed in use.
The challenger has more than met the initial level of proof required to establish a prima facie case that the mark is not in use, and the mark owner failed to even attempt to rebut this position, and thus the apparent lack of use remains unchallenged. The Adjudicator considers the evidence that the mark has not been in use for three years prior to filing the cancellation submission and thus it is fitting to cancel the mark.
In light of the above and in like of claims made at the hearing, it is clear that the mark owner has intentionally ignored the challenge to the mark and the cancellation proceedings submitted to the Israel Patent and Trademark Office. In addition to concluding a lack of usage, one can only conclude that the mark owner is simply holding the mark for no purpose. One would expect the mark owner to acknowledge and respond to the cancellation proceedings by abandoning the mark, thereby rendering this proceeding unnecessary.
The mark is therefore cancelled. Using her authority under Section 69 of the Ordinance, Ms Shoshani Caspi has also issued relevant costs in the proceeding, based on the work done by the challenger, and rules 9000 Shekels costs, which the mark owner is informed of via the address in the register.