Trademarks in Mandatory Palestine

January 17, 2018

Michael BirnhackProfessor Michael Birnhack of Tel Aviv University is lecturing to the Israel Patent Office on 24 January 2018 at 10:00 to 11:15 am on “Trademarks during the British Mandate”.

Professor Michael Birnhack is Associate Dean for Research, and a Professor of Law. He is the Director of the S. Horowitz Institute for Intellectual Property in memory of Dr. Amnon Goldenberg, and the Director of the Parasol Foundation International LL.M. He researches, teaches and writes about intellectual property, privacy law, information law, and law and technology.

Everybody is welcome but one has to register by email to Tamar Koby at tamark@justice.gov.il.


Transcendental Meditation

January 11, 2018

meditationThe Maharishi Vedic University Ltd. submitted Israel TM Application No. 249554 for מדיטציה טרנסנדנטלית  which is Transcendental Meditation transliterated into Hebrew. The mark was submitted on 21 September 2012 and covers:

Education services relating to health; conducting of courses relating to business management; production of video tapes for corporate use in management educational training; providing training courses on business management; provision of instruction courses in general management; conducting workshops and seminars in personal awareness educational services, namely, providing motivational and educational speakers in the field of self and personal improvement; personal development courses; personal development training; provision of training courses in personal development; meditation training; teaching of meditation practices; all included in class 41.

The mark is a simple word mark without stylistic or graphic elements.

Background

MaharashiTranscendental Meditation is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918–2008) derived Transcendental Meditation from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s. The technique is a specific form of silent mantra meditation that is often referred to as TM. Since TM also stands for trademark I considered relating to TMTM for the Transcendental Meditation Trade Mark, TMTMA for the Transcendental Meditation Trade Mark Application, but have decided not to use the abbreviation altogether.

In an Office Action dated 9 February 2015, the trademark examiner ruled that the mark could not be registered as with respect to the services covered, it lacked a distinguishing character as required by Section 8(a) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972.  The Examiner also considers that the requested mark is not registerable since it is descriptive and directly relates to the type or quality of the services provided which are transcendental meditation exercises and the training of transcendental meditation counselors contrary to Section 10(11).

maharishi bookIn the Office Action, the Examiner noted that the organization teaching the transcendental meditation is called that International Meditation Association and that hundreds of schools around the world use the technique. Consequently, one cannot allow the Applicant to monopolize the words making up the mark and thereby prevent other service providers from passing on and teaching the Maharishi’s teachings.

In response to these objections, on 30 December 2015 the Applicant responded by submitting an Affidavit of Adv. Macraman Oleh Oyser who is the general manager of the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd., a teacher of Transcendental Meditation and the head of the Legal Department of the that Global Transcendental Meditation Organization, and the worldwide IP manager of the Applicant.

In their response, the Applicant claimed that the mark was not descriptive of the services provided and maximally may be considered as hinting at the services. Similarly, they claimed that the phrase Transcendental Meditation was a combination of words that is identified with the Applicant and only with them, since the combination was coined by the Maharishi who established the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd.

The Applicant further asserted that the Global Transcendental Meditation Organization and all its branches was established by the followers of the Maharishi which the Applicant is associated with and is part of the same organizational structure as the Applicant. To support this assertion, the Applicant referred to exhibition 2 of Adv. Oyser’s Affidavit, where the definition of Transcendental Meditation taken from the Oxford Dictionary Online was reproduced.

In addition, the Applicant claimed that the mark was in use in Israel since 1973 and had acquired distinction by virtue of extensive usage, advertising and marketing in Israel and abroad. The Applicant considers that that the mark has become a well known mark that is identified with them alone. Similarly, in the years 2009 to 2014 since the application was filed, the Applicant has earned $874,000 from its activities in Israel. These assertions were supported by Adv. Oyser’s Affidavit.

The Applicant failed to convince the Examiner that the mark was registerable and the Trademark Office rejected the mark on 28 January 2016.

yogic fliersOn 2 May 2016, a hearing was held before the then Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks Asa Kling at the Applicant’s request. During the Hearing, the Applicant’s representative argued that the mark was unique and was a compound mark consisting of the combination of two opposites: meditation which is inward looking, and transcendental which is outward looking into the distance. During the hearing, the Applicant also claimed that the registration was requested to avoid misleading the relevant public interested in studying Transcendental Meditation, noting that the Applicant was one of the bodies authorized to train of Transcendental Meditation counselors and this would enable quality control which is an underlying justification of the trademark system.

In that hearing, the Commissioner requested that the transfer of rights from the Maharishi himself to the Applicant be fully documented and substantiated by the 14 August 2016.

On 14 August 2016 the Applicant submitted supplementary evidence including an affidavit of Neal Peterson who was the manager of the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd. the following is the transfer of rights as detailed in the Affidavit:

Maharishi started to teach meditation in 1954 in Southern India, and on 1 January 1958 he established the Spiritual Regeneration Movement SRM in one of India’s capitals. In time, the Maharishi opened 1000s of SRM centers across India where he taught Transcendental Meditation.

meditation profitAfter conducting travels to disseminate his teachings across Asia, in 1959 the Maharashi taught in New York and London and set up the International Meditation Society whilst in London. As he visited more countries, the Maharashi established more local organizations to spread the teachings and to collect tuition fees.

As stated, the first organizations were established under the names SRM or IMS and subsequently these names were less widely used and the movement became better known as GTMO or the Maharishi Movement.

In the early Sixties, Maharishi opened a program for training teachers of the Meditation method under the name Transcendental Meditation. The program is offered by organizations licensed by the GTMO leadership.

To ensure the exclusive connection between the name Transcendental Meditation and the Maharishi Movement and to ensure quality, prior to being accepted to the Transcendental Meditation Counselor Course, the students are required to sign a number of papers in the presence of the Applicant. These include Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements.

To explain how the rights were transferred from the GTMO to the Applicant, the Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha referred to the ruling concerning Israel Trademark Applications 29619 and 253899 to the Maharishi Vedic University Ltd. published on 30 October 2017. In that ruling the mark MAHARISHI in English and Hebrew was considered. There, in an ex partes decision, Ms Bracha ruled that the marks could be registered after the Applicant proved that they were the only party using the name MAHARISHI as a trademark to indicate their services.

RULING

Section 8 of the Ordinance states that the basic condition for trademarks to be registerable is that they have a distinguishing nature, as follows:

Marks Eligible for Registration

8.—(a) No mark is eligible for registration as a trade mark unless it is adapted to distinguish the goods of the proprietor of the mark from those of other persons (a mark so adapted being hereinafter referred to as a “distinctive mark”).

(b) In determining whether a trade mark is distinctive, the Registrar or the Court may, in the case of a trade mark in actual use, take into consideration the extent to which such use has rendered such trade mark in fact distinctive for goods in respect of which it is registered or intended to be registered.

Section 11(10) of the Ordinance describes one of the categories of marks that is not considered as having a distinguishing nature.

(10) a mark consisting of numerals, letters or words which are in common use in trade to distinguish or describe goods or classes of goods or which bear direct reference to their character or quality, unless the mark has a distinctive character within the meaning of section 8(b) or 9;

The evidence appended to the Application indicates that the term Meditation relates to an ancient tradition that is in element of many religions.

“Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions.”

In paragraph 13 of Adv. Oyser relates to Transcendental Meditation as Mantra Meditation that indicates holy sounds or the names of God. In Hinduism and Buddhism the practitioner of Mantra Meditation attempts to unify himself with the God.

Similarly, in the same section of definitions, the Applicant explains that the source of Transcendental Meditation is the Guru Dev and that according to Maharishi this is a development of Vedic writings and old books that are adapted for the modern world.

Furthermore, as part of their evidence submitted for registering 29619 and 253899 for the mark MAHARISHI in English and Hebrew, the Applicant submitted an Affidavit by Alexander Oded Kotai who is the Israel Director of the that International Meditation Association Israel, of the Maharashi International School and of the Israel Institute of the Science of Creative Intelligence. In the framework of his Affidavit, he also explains what Transcendental Meditation is, and in paragraph 21 states that:

Thus Transcendental Meditation is the name chosen by Maharishi to indicate and mark the meditation technique that he learned from Guru Dev and developed in India in the fifties. Maharishi developed the technique and adapted it for the modern world, and attributed it to his spiritual mentor, Guru Dev. Maharishi explained that the technique is a revelation of the principles found in Vedic writings, which is a collection of religious texts considered the oldest in Hinduism. According to Maharishi the Vedic writings have been misunderstood in the past hundreds of years. Maharishi teaches that Vede is knowledge of the science of awareness, and according to this science there is an awareness of the formation of the material of the universe.

Atharva-Veda_samhita_page_471_illustration-56a483c15f9b58b7d0d75d06From this it appears that the basis of Transcendental Meditation is found in the Buddhist religion and Transcendental Meditation is the Maharishi’s interpretation of Vedic literature. Nevertheless, the requested mark does not appear in the ancient Vedic literature. We are dealing with a phrase that the Maharishi coined for the technique he developed.  Adv. Oyser states this explicitly. Neal Peterson states that in when he started out in Southern India in 1954, Maharishi called this Transcendental Deep Meditation and shortened this to Transcendental Meditation as the years went by.

This raises the question of whether this is enough for the Applicant to be granted a trademark of whether it should be left open to the public for reasons of public interest.

Section 11(5) of the Trademark Ordinance excludes from registration:

(5) a mark which is or may be injurious to public policy or morality;

In this regard, see paragraph 46 of the Ruling concerning Israel Trademark Applications IL 232770 and 232271 for Lubavitch (English letters) and for Chabad (in Hebrew and English)  from 2 May 2016:

The purpose of the Ordinance is not to limit freedom of speech or freedom of religion –  Section 11(5) of the Ordinance does not allow registration of marks that adversely affect the public order.

The conclusion that Maharishi (who transferred his rights to the Applicant as described above), coined the term Transcendental Meditation which is the applied for mark, but this does no give the Applicant the right to register the mark. In this regard one may compare copyright with trademark law as per Neil Wilkof and Shamnad Basheer in their book “Overlapping Intellectual Property Rights”  2012) page 148, which relates to R Griggs Group Ltd and others v. Ross Evans and others ECDR 15,para 20 [2004]:

“…copyright is intended to protect creative skill and labour whereas the function of trademarks is to distinguish the goods or services of one provider from those of another. Trade mark law he said ‘has nothing to do with protecting any creative skill and labour in coming up with a trade mark, rather it is meant to prevent potential confusion among members of public.”

The Applicant claims that the purpose of the trademark registration is to protect the public from unregulated teaching of the technique since the technique relates to the mental health of the patient and there is thus a danger that it being applied by someone not qualified will damage the patient’s wellbeing. This is clear from the protocol of the discussion.

FreudIt is noted however, that the list of services for which the trademark is applied for does NOT include mental health, presumably since treatment of mental issues requires an appropriate education and license from the Israel Ministry of Health. It is noted that the services defined as ‘educational services relating to health’ are related to the psychology profession and is regulated by the Law for Psychologists 1977 which defines Psychology as

Working in Psychology is a profession related to diagnosing and quantifying issues and problems of mental health education and behavior of people and the treatment, rehabilitation, consultancy and training related to these issues and problems is generally to be performed by psychologists.

Since it is unreasonable to register the mark, Ms Bracha did not seem fit to rule on whether this service should be allowed. It is brought merely to discredit the claim that the mark should be registerable since it relates to mental health and is in the public interest that its counselors are licensed by Maharishi Vedic University Ltd.

Transcendental Meditation is a process that anyone can learn and teach and this does not require the agreement of the inventor or creator of the technique. Consequently, the technique must remain available for anyone to learn and teach. It is not fitting to prevent the public from expounding a meditation technique. Even if there is a contractual arrangement that prevents a person from spreading the technique he has learned, it is not clear that the limitation would be enforced by the relevant legal authorities.

In this regard, the words of then Deputy Commissioner Noach Shalev Shmulovich in paragraphs 29and 30, of the Trademark Ruling concerning Israel Application No. 178707 Ori King vs. Adi Shanan I.P.E.C.

I am not certain that one can protect a method of treatment, even temporarily when those that developed it are teaching and disseminating it, since there is no trade secret here. One cannot register a patent for a method of treatment. Although there may be copyright on educational materials, this does not extend to the technique itself or and the right to provide treatments or to teach others. That as may be, one cannot register a trademark to provide protection for a method of treatment by virtue of the registration.

Furthermore, the claim made before me that the application odes not deal with the trademark protecting the method, but only its teaching and dissemination, lacks substance. Where the technique is available to the public its teaching should be available to the public, unless the law provides some limitation, however, the way to provide a monopoly on the technique is not via the trademark register, since registration cannot be used to protect the technique.

Albert_Einstein_Head.jpgIn a similar manner, it appears that if the Hebrew University had tried to register a trademark for “Relativity”, it would be rejected. [MF – The Hebrew University holds the Einstein Archives and owns the name Einstein as a trademark which they license as a source of income.]. One also cannot register Transcendental Idealism as a trademark for an institute teaching Kantean Philosophy. Teaching that doctrine also requires some sort of agreement since one cannot say that everyone is capable of understanding this and teaching others.

The question that arises is whether a coined phrase for a philosophical or religious teaching, such as the application in question which combines transcendental and meditation, that arguably can obtain copyright protection, should be protected under trade laws.

anne frankThe beginning of an answer to this question is found in decisions that relate to names of creations. In a decision given by the court of appeal of the OHIM as it was known, and is now known as the EUIPO, relating to a trademark for “Le Journal d’Anne Frank”, inter alia, for books and newspapers, theatre productions, video tapes and fims on electronic media. See Re 2401/2014-4  Anne Frank Fonds (31.08.2015).

The Court of Appeals considered that the mark does not lack a distinguishing nature with regards to the goods and that the public can use the mark to differentiate between goods and services originating with the mark holder and those originating elsewhere. Furthermore, the European tribunal considered that the wide publicity of the mark as the name of the book was insufficient to prevent it being registered.

As noted in the decision regarding the Opposition to Israel Trademark Application No. 247693 for DEMART PRO ARTE B.V and Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali vs. V.S. Marketing (Israel 2005) ltd. (31 May 2016) it appears that the European ruling does not sit well with the US Law, nor with the Israel Law regarding registering the names of creative works as trademarks. Seligsohn related to this in his magnum opus Trademark Laws and Related Legislation, Shocken 1973, page 7:

“Regarding Goods”… a trademark cannot exist where a symbol relates substantively or technically with trade. The title of a book cannot be a trademark where there is a link between the title and the content of the book such that the title indicates it content and character.

In a similar matter, the US Supreme Court refused to accept a tort of Passing Off or misleading regarding the origins of a product where a television series was based on a book whose copyright had terminated after ruling that passing off under the Lanham Act was not intended to protect original creations and this was different from copyright. See re Dastar v. Twentieth Century Fox Film 539 US at 37 (2003).

Basheer and Wilcoff relate to this on page 155 of their book:

“…in its decision, the Supreme Court went further, holding that the US trademark laws ‘were not designed to protect originality and creativity and that to hold otherwise would be akin to finding that §43(a) [of the Lanham Act] created a species of perpetual patent and copyright, which congress may not do‘”.

Similar to the US Law, in Israel the protection granted by Copyright Law is given for a limited period, whereas trademarks may be renewed indefinitely. Consequently, prior to allowing a trademark to be registered, one has to balance between the rights of the author and the public good. See page 144 of Basheer and Wilcoff:

“Copyright subsists for a finite period, after which the work falls into the public domain where it can be used by anyone without attribution of authorship, whereas trademark rights can endure for as long as the indicia are used and associated with the owner’s offerings- potentially hundreds of years or more.”

As stated in her decision of 30 October 2017 regarding the registration of the name Maharashi in Israel, Ms Bracha noted that the Maharishi Foundation Limited had splintered from the Applicant’s organization and had given up on registering “Maharishi” in Hebrew or English but still taught the Transcendental Meditation discipline in various territories around the world. She did not think that it was correct to limit the teaching to one organization or another by trademark registration.

Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that a registration for Transcendental Meditation Programs exists in Israel TM No. 47738 that was submitted on 17 April 1979 by the Applicant. Without relating to whether this mark should have been registered back then, it is noted that the evidence submitted by the Applicant indicates that the International Association for Transcendental Meditation Israel, which is the local representative in Israel, markets and publicizes their services under a stylized mark that includes the registered trademark “Transcendental Meditation Programs”. It seems therefore that that the mark cannot be registered in Israel without appropriate regulation.

Israel Trademark Application No. 249554 is thus refused.

Ruling by Ms Bracha re Israel Trademark Application Number 249554 for “Transcendental Meditation”, 20 December 2017.

COMMENT

The former Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue and Peer of the Realm Dr Jonathan Sacks has a joke that appears in Not In Heaven:

Beatles and MaharishiWhen I was a student at university in the late 1960s – the era of student protests, psychedelic drugs, and the Beatles meditating with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – a story went the rounds. An American Jewish woman in her sixties travelled to north India to see a celebrated guru. There were huge crowds waiting to see the holy man, but she pushed through, saying that she needed to see him urgently. Eventually, after weaving through the swaying throng, she entered the tent and stood in the presence of the master himself. What she said that day has entered the realm of legend. She said, “Marvin, listen to your mother. Enough already. Come home.” 


NOCTUROL

December 20, 2017

NocturolWellesley Pharmaceuticals LLC submitted Israel Trademark Application No. 284926 for NOCTUROL; a Pharmaceutical preparations for reducing frequency of urination in Class 5.

NocturnoUnipharm, a large Israeli generic drug manufacturer and distributor that sells the mild hypnotic Zopiclone as a treatment for insomnia under the brand-name NOCTURNO opposed the mark on 10 September 2017.

On 11 September 2017, the Court of the Israel Patent & Trademark Office gave Wellesley Pharmaceuticals two months to file a counter-statement of case.

The deadline of 11 November 2017 passed without a  a counter-statement of case being filed, and on 20 November 2017, Unipharm requested that their Opposition be accepted and the application refused.

Section 24(v) of the Trademark Ordinance states:

If the Applicant does not submit such a response, it is as if they have abandoned their mark.

The Opposition to Israel Trademark Application No. 284926 is thus accepted.

In general, the prevailing party is entitled to costs. The considerations are the time involved, complexity, work done, equitable behavior, etc. Under her Authority given in Section 69, the Adjudicator, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi, ruled costs of 2000 Shekels including VAT.

COMMENT

Notably, the director of Unipharm, Dr Zebulun Tomer (who has more experience in patent oppositions than any mere lawyer or patent attorney) filed the trademark Opposition himself, without involving their legal counsel Adi Levit.

As Unipharm did not use legal counsel, they are not entitled to costs. This is clear from Patent Oppositions where they prevailed in similar circumstances. The cost ruling was given without sides requesting costs and is appealable to the District Court. However, the I would be surprised if Wellesley contests it.


ENVY

December 20, 2017

276449Bacardi & Company LTD filed Israel Trademark Application Number 276449 consisting of a stylized mark comprising a pair of wings and the words ANGEL’S ENVY, the mark is for alcoholic beverages, except beers in class 33. They also filed Israel Trademark Application Number 275692 for North American whiskey; alcoholic beverages based on, or flavoured with North American whiskey.

ENVYLa Fée LLP filed Israel Trademark Application Number 278588 for ENVY as shown. The mark covers Spirits; absinthe; alcoholic beverages containing spirits; alcoholic beverages containing absinthe in Class 33.

(Absinthe  is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. In other words, it seems to be a type of Arak,

angel's envyBacardi’s marks were filed on 31 March 2015, and La Fée’s marks were filed on 27 July 2016, before Bacardi’s marks were examined. As the marks were co pending, a competing marks proceeding ensued. On 26 June 2017 the parties were given three months to submit their evidence regarding their rights to the marks.

On 13 September 2017, La Fée LLP submitted an unclear communication that related to priority. On 14 September 2017 the Israel Patent Office requested clarification and asked if the submission was a type of evidence. However, La Fée did not respond. On 26 October 2010 after requesting and obtaining extensions, Bacardi submitted their evidence. In view of the lack of response from La Fée, on 7 November 2017, the patent office sent them a letter giving a grace period of a week to submit their evidence. However, La Fée LLP did not respond.

Section 67 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972 states that

Subject to any regulation under this Ordinance, evidence is proceedings before the Registrar shall be by affidavit under section 15 of the Evidence Ordinance (New Version) 5732 -1971, or by declaration made abroad under the law of the place where it is made, so long as the Registrar does not otherwise direct; but the Registrar may, if he thinks fit, take oral testimony in lieu of or in addition of written evidence, and may permit the deponent or declarant to be cross-examined.

In this instance, La Fée did not submit any affidavit and there does not seem to be any justification for them failing to do so.

Consequently, regulation 25(b) applies:

If the Applicant fails to submit a detailed response within three months of the invitation to do so, the Applicant will consider the Application as cancelled under Section 22 of the Ordinance and a notice to that effect will be sent to the Applicant.

Since La  Fée chose not to submit evidence at all, and not to respond in any way to the Queries from the Court of the Patent Office, the Adjudicator, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi ruled that filed Israel Trademark Application Number 278588 for ENVY be considered abandoned, and Bacardi’s marks proceed to examination.

Using her powers to rule reasonable costs under Section 69 of the Ordinance, noting that Bacardi did exert effort in responding and Le  Fée’s behavior, she ruled that le Fée pay 15000 Shekels costs (excluding VAT) to Bacardi within 14 days or the costs will be index linked and bear interest until paid.

Competing marks ruling concerning 276449, 275692 and 278588, Yaara Shoshani Caspi , 16 November 2017.


A forest of Sequoias

December 19, 2017

SequoiaBalboa Apps attempted to register Israel Trademark Application Number 271170 for SEQUOIA in class 9 covering Computer software for Internet search and browsing, e-mail, electronic messaging, and application development; computer operating system software and computers. The mark is a stylized word mark in capital letters in a serif font as shown along side.

The Examiner refused the mark on the basis of Section 11(9) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972 due to its similarity to Israel Trademark No. 227696 for SEQUOIA CAPITAL THE OWNER’S CODE and to Israel Trademark No.  227697 for SEQUOIA CAPITAL THE FOUNDER’S CODE both in class 42 and covering technology consultation and research in the fields of computer hardware, computer software, networking, telecommunications, e-commerce, content distribution, financial services, health care, energy, clean technology and outsourcing; all included in class 42.

Sequoia capital

271338

sequoia 271339

271339

A separate issue was a Section 29 (competing marks proceeding) with reference to  Israel Trademark Numbers 271338 for Sequoia Capital and 271339 for Sequoia in classes 35, 36, 38, 41 and 42.

On 2 January 2017, the Applicant responded to the Office Action by noting that the requested mark was successfully registered in many other jurisdictions; that the application was for a different class than that of the cited marks and the services and goods are likewise different, and the difference in the marks are clear and self-evident and not similar enough to cause confusion. These arguments were not considered persuasive by the Examiner and Applicant’s representative requested a hearing before the Commissioner, which was held on 16 July 2017.

In this regard, the Applicant requested under paragraph 8 of Circular 013/2012 to leave the competing marks issue under Section 29 (competing marks) until the Section 11(9) (similarity of marks) issue was ruled on.

Ruling

The Applicant’s mark is the word Sequoia in a serif font, and the registered marks are for SEQUOIA CAPITAL THE OWNER’S CODE and SEQUOIA CAPITAL THE FOUNDER’S CODE in San-serif font. The Applicant’s mark is for computer software under section 9, whereas the registered marks are for consultation regarding computer software and hardware, telecommuniication as and other things in class 42.

Section 11 states that:

  1. The following marks are not capable of registration:

(1)…

(9) a mark identical with one belonging to a different proprietor which is already on the register in respect of the same goods or description of goods, or so nearly resembling such a mark as to be calculated to deceive;

 Section 2 states:

  1. Save as otherwise provided, the provisions of this Ordinance which apply to trade marks shall apply mutatis mutandis to service marks, and every reference in this Ordinance to a trade mark or to goods shall be deemed to include a service mark or a service.

Thus before considering the similarity of the marks, and whether the registration of the mark in question could deceive with regards to the registered marks, it is necessary to determine whether the various marks are for goods and services of the same type. If it can be established that the requested goods and services are of a different type, Then Read the rest of this entry »


Black Box Trade Dress

December 12, 2017

2525230

Sea of Spa Laboratories have submitted Israel trademark application number 285230 for a three-dimensional stylized trademark as shown alongside, for Mineral bath salts and mud masques (not for medical purposes), body butter, body peeling aromatherapy cream, body cream, Aloe Vera cream, Cosmetic creams and lotions, moisturizing cream for the face and baldpate, shampoo, soap, liquid toilet soap, shower gel, toothpaste, deodorant, perfumes, after shave balm (not for medical purposes), all being produced from or enriched with minerals from the Dead Sea; cosmetic soaps; cream soaps; liquid soaps; perfumed soaps; soaps for body care; soaps for personal use; essential oils; Cosmetic creams for skin care; Hair care creams; Hair care preparations; Hair care lotions; Lotions for face and body care; Nail care preparations; Body and beauty care cosmetics; Cosmetic creams; Cosmetic preparations; Cosmetics; Body oils; Hair coloring preparations; Hair styling preparations; Hair shampoos and conditioners; Baby oils; Shampoos for babies; Bath and shower gels and salts not for medical purposes; Bath oils; Bath soaps; Bath foam; Massage oils; Cosmetic massage creams; Sun screen preparations; Sunscreen creams; Sun-tanning oils and lotions; Sun block preparations; Tanning and after-sun milks, gels and oils; Beauty gels; Beauty creams; Body creams; Face creams for cosmetic use; Beauty lotions; Body lotions; Skin lotions; Make-up; Cosmetics and make-up; Make-up for the face and body; Make-up removing preparations all in class 3 and for on line advertising on a computer network; online retail store services for the sales of cosmetics, body care products, soaps, perfumery, essential oils, hair lotions, toothpaste and deodorants; direct mail advertising; Organizing and conducting trade fairs, events and exhibitions for commercial or advertising purposes; dissemination of advertising and promotional materials; distribution of products for advertising purposes; product merchandising; commercial business management; business management of wholesale and retail outlets; retail or wholesale services for cosmetics, toiletries, dentifrices, soaps and detergents in class 35.

From clarifications with the Applicant, it appears that the mark is meant to be a black box, with silver edging to the panels. The Applicant clarified that the requested protection is for boxes of different shapes and sizes, but which are all black with silver trim along the vertices.

The request for registration was submitted on 25 May 2016 with a request for expedited examination based on alleged unauthorized usage by third parties.

circular

The trademark department refused the Application. In a first Office Action on 29 August 2016, the Examiner considered that the mark was not registerable as a trademark, being a three-dimensional package or container, lacking the required distinctiveness under Section 8a to be registered as a trademark. The Examiner considered the mark as contravening Circular 032-2015 “Trademarks: Requests for Three Dimensional Marks”, from 18 March 2015. The Examiner also considered that the correct way to protect such marks is as registered designs.

black pearl

On 12 January 2017, the Applicant responded with the argument that the mark had acquired distinctiveness due to wide usage. This contention was supported with an Affidavit from MR Avitar Glam, the CEO of the company who claimed that the Black Pearl series of products were packaged in such boxes from 2013 onwards, and that the Applicant had spent tens of thousands of Shekels in rebranding. Supporting evidence was appended to the Affidavit.

On 2 March 2017, the Trademark Department wrote that the response of the Applicant was insufficient to conclude that the silver trimmed black boxes without the addition of additional elements on the package were sufficient to be considered as having the acquired distinctiveness required for registration as a trademark.

The Applicant responded by requesting a hearing.

Applicant’s Claims

The Applicant considers that the registration of the requested mark will provide appropriate protection against competitors using similar packaging to theirs. The Applicant considers that the registration will not adversely affect competition in the market place since there are very many different ways of stylizing packages.

The Applicant considers that when considering three-dimensional marks for packaging the Examiner should differentiate between the basic shape and the requested mark. The Applicant considers that Circular 032-2015 fails to make this distinction and is thus deficient.

With this, the Applicant considers that the applied for mark still fulfils the basic conditions outlined in Circular 032-2015, since it is uniquely identified with the Applicant due to continuous usage since 2013, with investment in advertising and promotion of the mark. The Applicant denies that the packaging has a real functional or aesthetic purpose, but rather serves to make the product stand out on the shelf, and is thus a registerable mark.

Discussion

toffiffee

Three-dimensional marks that are the shape of the package are registerable if the owner can prove acquired distinctiveness through use. See 11487/03 August Storck et AL.. vs. Alpha Intuit Foodstuffs ltd et al. (23 March 2008) “Toffiffee”. In that matter, the Supreme Court pointed out a difference that can occur between allowing trademark registration of the shape of a product itself, and allowing a three-dimensional registration for its packaging. However, the Supreme Court left open the question of registration of packaging as a trademark on the basis of inherent distinctiveness:

It appears that the risk of preventing competition by allowing registration is bigger, when registering the shape of the product, than when registering the shape of the good itself.  (See re Phoenician Glass, paragraph 17). Consequently, I have decided to leave open the question of registration of three-dimensional marks consisting of the package on the basis of inherent distinctiveness.

Circular 033/2016 –Trademarks: Emphases when Examining Trademarks, from 15 December 2016, is the third reincarnation of Circular MN 61 which relates to the registerability of three-dimensional trademarks. The Circular applies the tests developed in Toffiffee, and does not relate to the difference between the shape of the product, and the shape of the package. Since this distinction was left open in the Toffiffee case, a Commissioner’s circular is not the right place to determine this. To complete the picture, when the Application was examined, the Circular in effect was 032/2015 – Trademarks, and so that was the Circular that the Examiner referred to in the Office Action. That said, all three circulars state that when considering the registerability of three-dimensional trademark applications:

One can consider the registerability of three-dimensional marks in cases where it is proven by evidence that the following three conditions are fulfilled:

  1. The requested shape serves as a trademark
  2. The requested shape does not serve a real aesthetic or functional purpose
  3. Through usage, the shape has acquired distinctiveness

The wording of the Circular is problematic. It relates to shapes or forms, and not to colour schemes on packages.

Before discussing whether the mark fulfills the requirements of the case-law and the Circular, there is a preliminary question to be addressed, in whether the colour scheme can be considered a mark since the proportions of the box, and thus of the surface panels varies. A similar issue was dealt with by then Commissioner Dr Noam with regards to Israel Trademark Application Numbers 182676, 182677 and 182679 to MANN+HUMBEL GMBH from 19 August 2008. There a mark was requested from a green and gold box with a white line separating the green and gold, in all shapes, i.e. without providing a ratio between the colours. There the Commissioner ruled:

From that written, it seems that we are referring to a mark that is so fluid that it is doubtful whether it is a mark at all. From consideration of Mr Ivor’s Affidavit, together with screen prints from the website of the Applicant, it seems that we are dealing with a concept, with a design idea that combines green, gold and a dividing white line that is expressed in different ways in the website, the packaging and the company’s catalogues.

A basic known principle throughout the branches of intellectual property law is that intellectual property does not protect ideas, but rather embodiments of those ideas.

So the then Commissioner ruled that the registration of insufficiently defined marks is inappropriate.

The applications as filed, if they issue, will totally remove from the public domain the use of two colours on any box. This is an unreasonably wide monopolization that creates legal uncertainty.

The Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha opined that in this instance, we have a “design concept”, which is too broad to be a trademark. In this regard, it is worth considering the definition of a mark in James Mellor, David Llewelyn, Thomas Moody-Stuart, David Keeling, Iona Berkeley Kerly’s Law of Trade Marks and Trade Names”, 15th ed. (2011) p. 17.

black pearl 4However, even if we consider the mark as sufficiently defined, one has to assess acquired distinctiveness on the basis of whether the public recognize the mark. From the evidence it appears that the Applicants do not brand themselves only with the applied for mark, but always together with the term “Black Pearl” and a picture of a pearl. These always appear clearly on the packaging. The public do not merely recognize the applied for mark as being a trademark, but the Applicant itself does not consider it to be a trademark. From Appendix 7 which lists the sales, it is clear that the series is referred to as “Black Pearl”.

black peral 3

In the website of the Applicant, (appendix 1 to the Affidavit), the series is referred to as the Black Pearl Line, and in the US website is www.blackpearlusa.com most of the products are shown without packaging at all, which shows that the requested mark is not being used as a mark [and therefore cannot have acquired distinctiveness –MF].

The Applicant did not submit any evidence as to how the consumer considers the requested mark, but does note that sometimes the package on the shelf is viewed from the back. The Deputy Commissioner does not consider the fact that a consumer could return a box to the shelf such that the front is obscured as sufficient justification to consider the mark as being identified as trademark by the consumers. (see paragraph 13 of Appeal 59175-12-12 Stokke AS vs. Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, 26 November 2013.

In light of the above, the Deputy Commissioner does not consider that the Application serves as a trademark.

Although not necessary, the Deputy Commissioner continued to consider the other conditions for registerability outlined in the Circular.

The Applicant submitted data regarding the branding, which included the design of the packaging and information regarding sales. The Deputy Commissioner noted that it is not enough to show sales but one has to show a link between sales and the mark to show that the requested mark to shows that the requested mark generates sales and the burden of proof is significant. See 18/86 Israel Glass Factory Phoenicia ltd. vs. Les Verries de Saint Gobain, p.d. 45(3) 224, 238 and Appeal 2776/06 Ein Gedi Cosmetics vs. Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, 12 May 2008.

Where a product has several trademarks alongside each other, it becomes even more difficult to show that one or other of them has individually acquired distinctiveness. See Deputy Commissioner’s ruling regarding the Trademark Application Nos. 216872, 216873 and 216874 Proctor & Gamble (2012):

We are considering marks serving as backgrounds for words such as “Herbal Essences” and the flower image around the neck of the bottle. (see Appendix D of Ms Rosnell’s affidavit). Furthermore, the applied for marks do not include all the background elements, since it was filed in grey.

See also the comparative law for packaging serving as backgrounds for other marks, in 180843 Baltika vs. S&G Intertrade ltd (2012):

The mark before me is merely a generic background for a beer bottle. There is no problem per se with registering a label as a trademark, if it fulfills the conditions of the Ordinance, and in comparison with the US Law, and Jerome Gilson “Trademark Protection and Practice”, p. 2-162 (2002):

“It should be noted, however, that packaging design which is primarily background for a word trademark must make a separate commercial impression in order to be eligible for separate protection.”

With regard to registering bottles as trademarks, it is sometimes worth considering whether the applied for mark has a form that is typical for the field – see Adjudicator of IP in re Israel TM Application 174402 Diageo North America, Inc. from 13 April 2011, and the Cointreau bottle ruling from 2 April 2013. It seems that the more unusual a bottle is, the more easily it can be considered as having acquired distinctiveness, and so can be registered as a trademark.

From an Internet search it transpires that there are other companies using a black box with a frame (Commissioner’s discretion to search independently is discussed in the Rishon L’Zion Winery vs. the Vineyard ltd. (4) 338, 2006. See for example:

Aroma

These packages are just a couple of examples of the many black packages that appear on the Internet, which are decorated with gold or silver, and are used for packaging cosmetics. Although they are NOT identical to the Applicant’s packages, they do indicate that the applied for mark does not stand out from other cosmetic packages on the market.

The Deputy Commissioner did not see fit to consider the question of whether the packages serve a functional or real aesthetic purpose, but it seems that they were designed as part of a branding exercise designed to give a quality image, together with the black pearl. However, this is beyond that required.

Since it is not clear that the application is a mark, and in light of the conclusions that it is not clearly a trademark that has acquired distinctiveness through use, the application for registration is rejected.

Ruling re Black Pearl Package Trademark by Deputy Commissioner Ms. Jacqueline Bracha, 1 October 2017.

COMMENTS

It is difficult to argue that a cuboid or brick shaped box is anything but a functional package. It is also difficult to argue that the black and silver choice of colouring is not designed to be aesthetic. However, I am not sure that the Circular is properly worded, and this case seems to me to be more a question of a flat trademark applied to a box, rather than a three-dimensional mark.

The issue here is NOT one of three-dimensional marks, but is rather one of trade-dress. A single colour trade-dress is probably not sufficiently distinctive. In most places, Cadbury’s distinctive purple was not considered sufficiently distinctive to be registered itself. ‘Laline’ makes beauty products and has simple white packaging, which is a brilliant attempt to market themselves as pure, but can plain white boxes be considered distinctive? Here, there are two colours, and one is a frame. In other words, it is a little like the National Geographic yellow frame on their magazines. However, there is a second colour; the basic black as well.

 

national geographicThen again, National Geographic has a very long history, massive circulation, and back copies seem to lurk indefinitely in waiting rooms at doctors and dentists. I suspect many kids first saw photos of naked human bodies in National Geographic magazines that seem to be more favoured by school libraries than men’s magazines.

Also, the dimensions of the National Geographic magazine is standard, and the company is using the yellow frame as a trademark on videos, their TV channel, and various merchandise.

So in this case, there is really a two-dimensional mark of a silver frame on around a black rectangle. Since the dimensions change, it is really a trade dress and is not constant enough to be registered as a mark. Even if not registerable as a trademark, it may still be enforceable under the tort of passing off and unjust enrichment. Since accelerated examination was requested for the mark on the basis of a competitor using it, one wonders if it really is exclusively associated with the Applicant. As the Deputy Commissioner has shown, the colour scheme is not unique to the Applicant.

If one examines the website, there are boxes that are all black with a silver label, and gold boxes with the writing Black Pearl on them. There are also black squeeze tubes with silver writing. In other words, the trade-dress is not used consistently. There are other cosmetics using silver on black, particularly but not exclusively designed for usage by women of colour (or whatever the current politically correct term is).

Although relating to a ruling concerning colour schemes which is essentially a trade dress related decision, the Deputy Commissioner has essentially examined the mark in light of the Circular governing three-dimensional marks. To my mind this is the wrong approach. A better starting point would be to consider the ice-creamcoffee and energy drink rulings.


Israel Supreme Court Upholds Decision Re Appellation of Origin

November 26, 2017

cheese and wineIsrael is a member of the Lisbon Convention for the Appellation of Origin. This is an international convention beloved of the French and frowned upon by the common law countries. Essentially food and drink associated with certain places is entitled to wider protection than mere trademark protection, so that only Scotland can make Scotch Whiskey. Only France can make Champagne and Cognac. Parmesan cheese and hams must come from the Parmesan region of Italy, and so on.

There are now two Israeli whiskey producers. Israel makes Kosher bubbly wine and brandy and a very wide range of cheeses that mimic English, French, Italian, Dutch and Greek types. The labeling is carefully controlled in accordance with the rules.

Israel boasts one Appellation of Origin: Jaffa for citrus fruits.

jaffa orangeCalling something Jaffa, Jaffas, or in Hebrew יפו, יבא, יפאס is not merely a trademark infringement, but also infringes the special law governing this appellation of origin “The Law for Protecting Origins and Indication of sources 1965” gave special protection for Jaffa and variant spellings for citrus fruits. Subsequently, special amendments to the Trademark Ordinance in 1968 widened the protection of the Jaffa mark to prevent its usage for a wider range of goods, and forbade marks that include the word Jaffa as only part of the mark. The amendment to the trademark ordinance takes this protection very seriously, and instead of merely providing financial remedies, prescribes incarceration for infringers.

126 EL AL Poster, Two Flight Attendants in Orange Uniforms by 747, Marvin G. Goldman Coll'nelal posterBack in the Sixties, Israel was a banana an orange republic. The largest export sector was fruit and vegetables and oranges were the flagship product. The posters alongside, used by ELAL – Israel’s national airline gives an indication of the importance and symbolism of the orange in that era.

The Council for Producing Plants and Their Marketing owns rights in the word Jaffa as a geographical application of origin.

Yehuda Malchi tried to register Israel Trademark Application Numbers 20542 and 220581 for OLD JAFFA, for preserved, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; eggs, milk and milk products; edible oils and fats; all included in class 29 and for coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, semolina, tapioca, coffee substrates, cereals, breads and baked goods, sweets, ice-creams, honey, yeast, baking powder, salt, vinegary sauces (flavorings) and spices in class 30, respectively. Israel trademark no. 237678 covering soaps, perfumery, essential oils, cosmetics, hair lotions and dentifrices, all included in class 3 had previously issued without opposition. In an action combined with an opposition by the Council for Producing Plants and Their Marketing to Israel Trademark Application Numbers 20542 and 220581 , the Israel trademark 237678  (Old Jaffa) was canceled. The ruling may be found here.

Having appealed the Israel Patent Office ruling and that of the District Court, Yehuda Malchi appealed to the Israel Supreme Court.

EtrogJudge Hendel’s ruling included an interesting side comment in which he noted that Chief Rabbi Kook, who was the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa and the surrounding agricultural villages from 1904 until the outbreak of World War 1, had backed a campaign to promote using Jaffa etrogs (citrons) for the Sukkot ritual, rather than those from Korfu and Italy, which held much of the European market. Judge Handel thus argued that Israel was traditionally blessed with citrus fruit and that Jaffa was the hub of the trade a hundred years ago.

Hendel also noted that very little of the sprawling urban conurbation around Jaffa is devoted to agriculture today, but since the amendment to the Trademark Ordinance explicitly prevents use of Jaffa as part of a mark, the phonetic or visual similarity between JAFFA and OLD JAFFA is not relevant. He thus upheld the District Court’s ruling.

COMMENT

I am naturally formalistic (which is considered a dirty word in Israeli legal circles), and generally think that where the democratically elected legislative passes a clear law, the judges should follow that law. I am against judicial activism which I see as undermining the Knesset. (That is not to say that recent government attempts to prevent charges being brought against active ministers, to prevent the Prime Minister from being indicted for corruption are the finest examples of parliamentary legislation).

Nevertheless, I think that Judge Hendel could have and should have struck down this law providing wide and special protection for Jaffa oranges. The reason why is not merely that the brand does not indicate oranges from the Jaffa region grown by Jewish agriculturists on Kibbutzim, but rather that it does not indicate oranges grown in the contested region of Israel – Palestine at all! In order to provide year round supplies to world wide markets, oranges grown in South Africa and Australia are sold under the Jaffa brand. Thus the unique and distinctive taste of Jaffa oranges is not a result of the terroir of the Holy Land at all.  This travesty means that BDS supporters are not merely depriving Arab orchard owners with Thai foreign workers of their livelihood in an attempt to harm Israel politically, but are also harming the black workers in townships around Johannesburg.

Since the Council for Producing Plants and Their Marketing does not restrict usage of the mark to Israel grown oranges, why shouldn’t the special designation be cancelled?

In fairness to Judge Hendel however, we note that Yehuda Malchi was not represented and suspect that the sad state of affairs described above is unknown to him.

For the record, we note that it is ill-advised to appeal to fight legal battles, including submitting Appeals to the Supreme Court without legal representation.