Supreme Court Adds Sauce to Temporary Injunction

April 25, 2018

Back in February, we reported regarding a temporary injunction that Barilla obtained in the Tel Aviv District Court against Rami Levy, requiring them to remove packages of pasta that came boxed in blue boxes with cellophane windows and similar packaging to Barilla’s range of pastas.

The image above shows Rami Levy’s packaging under the Olla own-brand on the left, and the Barilla packaging on the right.

Whilst it is true that the Olla packaging does state Rami-Levy – Shivuk HaShikma (Sycamore Packaging), and the name of the pasta is written in Hebrew, it is also true that both brand-names end with the syllable and letters lla, and the fonts are italicized and slope to the right.

Rami Levy appealed the decision to the Supreme Court but Judge Solberg upheld the temporary injunction pending a full trial and ruling, and also widened it to cover pasta sauces, noting that like Barilla, Rami Levy uses glass jars with blue lids for their tomato sauces. Costs of 40,000 Shekels were awarded to Barilla for having to deal with the appeal.

Comment 

We note that Rami Levy has a further own-brand packaging for dried pasta (on the right), where Taaman (whose own packaging is blue) package their pasta for Rami Levy in cellophane bags that seem inspired by Osem’s Perfecto range (on the left) so they can simply pour out the boxes and bag in cellophane, at least until Osem sues them.

steaks

We also note that Rami Levy (on the left) recently jumped into the frying pan with minute steaks, using a packaging scheme not vastly dissimilar from Baladi’s (on the right), and that Judge Avrahami of the Petach Tikveh District Court granted a temporary injunction requiring Rami Levy to adhere a sticker that is not red, white or black to their frozen meat package of minute steaks that should be at least 11 cm by 8.5 cm, that is clearly printed and which states that the product is under Rami Levy’s own label. The sticker must not include the price or the words “Special Offer”, that could dilute the effect of differentiating between the products. The sticker is to be applied to the front of the packaging at the top, under the term “Maadaniyah” (delicatessen).

Appeal 1065/18 and 1521/18 Rami Levy vs. Barilla, 22/4/2018


A Balanced Temporary Injunction Against Rami Levy

April 19, 2018

This case concerns ‘minute steaks’ supplied by Rami Levy – a supermarket chain in own-brand packaging that has some similarity to that of Baladi, a brand that had introduced the product to the frozen meat freezers in Israel. Baladi sued Rami Levy for passing off, copyright infringement and unjust enrichment and tried to obtain a temporary injunction against Rami Levy at what is the start of the Israel barbecue season.

steaks

This case concerns ‘minute steaks’ supplied by Rami Levy – a supermarket chain in own-brand packaging that has some similarity to that of Baladi, a brand that had introduced the product to the frozen meat freezers in Israel. Baladi sued Rami Levy for passing off, copyright infringement and unjust enrichment and tried to obtain a temporary injunction against Rami Levy at what is the start of the Israel barbecue season.

baladi minute steak

The claims of passing off and copyright infringement were considered unlikely to prevail and thus not grounds for a temporary injunction. However, Judge Avrahami saw fit to grant a temporary injunction on the grounds of unjust enrichment. Rather than have Rami Levy’s product removed from the shelves and repackaged which could result in the meat being lost, she ruled that a sticker in a contrasting colour should be attached to the packages indicating that Maadaniya was Rami Levy’s own brand. Rami Levy was also advised to work towards introducing a more different package. The parties were invited to try to settle their differences without the court having to hear the case in its

Baladi makes meat products including minute steak which are thinly sliced steak that can be roasted in a frying pan in one minute. Baladi claims to have designed the packaging that they use for minute steaks.

Rami Levi is a public company that runs supermarkets across Israel. The company stocks known brands and also sells popular products packaged for them under their own label.

Rami Levi sells Baladi products. It also sells minute steaks under their only  own label “Rami Levi’s Sycamore Marketing Delicatessen”. Rami Levi’s own label minute steaks are packaged by TBone Veal.

In a preliminary ruling, Baladi claimed that minute steaks were not sold in supermarkets until they launched this product in November 2017 with a massive and expensive sales campaign. From the launch until 19 March 2018, the product sold well due to the marketing campaign. On 19 March 2018, suddenly, without notice, Rami Levi forbade Baladi to replenish supplies and blocked the product, and instead supplied minute steaks under their own label.

baladi logo

Baladi claims that the own-label brand is packaged in a copycat package of that of their product, and that this was a calculated, organized action of Rami Levi in bad faith, to ride on Baladi’s advertising campaign and product launch, benefiting from their investment. Baladi’s campaign has drawn customers to want to purchase their product. The customers go to the meat refrigerators and find the infringing product that is a copy of their package and are misled into believing that they are purchasing Baladi’s product.

Baladi considers that the case is particularly serious since Rami Levi is a retailer that can block their product whilst offering the competing own-label product. This is particularly problematic since Rami Levi’s product launch was just before Pesach and close to Independence Day which is the start of the Israel barbecue season when sales go up significantly.

In light of the above, on 22 March 2018, Baladi sued for passing off, unfair trade practices, copyright infringement in the product package and unjust enrichment. They filed their case in the Tel Aviv and Jaffa District Court. Baladi requested a permanent injunction, compensation and production of sales data. For the purpose of assessing the court fees, Baladi assess the damages at 2,750,000 Shekels.

Baladi also requested a temporary injunction on Rami Levi to prevent them using the product sold under their private label or at least to prevent them selling the product in the packaging used at the time of filing, and to cease from blocking Baladi’s products, and to enable their products to be sold on an equal basis with other frozen meat products. The Request was supported by an affidavit from Ms Irene Feldman, the VCFO of Baladi, and was filed as an ex-partes action for immediate attention since any delay will cause irreparable damage.

El gaucho minute steak

In response, Yossi Sabato, the VCEO of Rami Levy submitted an Affidavit claiming that Baladi was acting in extreme bad faith by not telling the court that they were conducting a parallel action against El Gaucho which is a label of TBone Veal in the Central District Court as 4347-01-18. In that instance, they made similar accusations which were rejected. This action, in a different court, against a different label, was a type of forum shopping that was indicative of bad faith and should be sufficient for the case to be thrown out. This was simply an attempt to corner the market and to prevent competition. The Ex-partes actions in both the El Gaucho case and in the present instance are cynical exploitations of the legal system designed to get free publicity, and the plaintiff was suing for extreme damages without having first contacted the supermarket chain, which is itself inequitable behavior for which the case should be thrown out.

monopoly

With regards to the complaint itself, Rami Levy claims that Baladi is trying to obtain a monopoly on minute steaks, which is a term known in Israel and abroad and which they did not coin. Baladi also tried to obtain a trademark for this generic term. Minute steaks have been advertised in Israel in the past and are available in restaurants and from butchers, and even from supermarkets. Baladi has not been in the market long enough for minute steaks to be identified with them to the extent that they deserve a monopoly on the term (acquired distinctiveness), and a reputation that is protectable, and even Baladi does not claim to have rights to minute steaks but only to the sound of the name.

Rami Levy

Rami Levy claims that their product package is completely different from Baladi’s, including writing and visual elements, and there is no likelihood of confusion. Baladi advertises their product with their trade-name Baladi clearly written thereon and, in the absence of this term, there is no likelihood of confusion. Rami Levy’s private label HaMaadaniya (literally the delicatessen) is well-known to Rami Levy’s customers as a low price brand, and there is no likelihood of confusion.

“Rami Levy” is written clearly on the front and back of the packaging, and is a super brand that does not need to ride on the reputation of Baladi or anyone else. The difference in price also prevents confusion, and all Rami Levy’s own branded products are clearly sold as such in their stores, and there are loads of examples of private labels being sold alongside branded goods and the public are not misled in any way that they are purchasing something other than the own label.

boycott

As to the issue of marketing Baladi’s products in Rami Levy’s stores, Rami Levy contends that they are under no obligation by general law (in rem) or by contract (in personam) with Baladi, to purchase any of Baladi’s products, including their meat products. Baladi’s goods are available in other chains. At present, Rami Levy stores DO stock Baladi’s minute steaks but, in view of the high price that Baladi dictates for their product, Rami Levy is under no obligation to replenish stocks of something much more

In answer to Rami Levy’s response, Baladi reiterated that their issue is NOT the name ‘minute steak’, but the packaging and the product blocking. On 26 March 2018. a long hearing was held. There were many attempts to bring the parties into an understanding, and the affidavits were reviewed and the parties summarized their arguments. After the hearing the parties still refused to come to an understanding, and so there is no alternative but to reach a verdict in this instance.

Relevant Considerations Regarding Temporary Injunctions

Principles-Governing-Issuance-of-Temporary-Injunction

It is known that the party requesting a temporary injunction has to convince the Court, on the basis of apparently convincing evidence, that there is grounds for the complaint and the Court then has to balance the ease of implementing the different actions, i.e. the damage to the complainant if a temporary restriction order is not issued, vs. the damage to defendant if a temporary restriction order is issued but if it later transpires should not have been. The Court has to ascertain whether the temporary injunction was requested in good faith, and if the injunction is just and fitting in the circumstances and does not unduly damage the defendant – See Regulation 363 of the Civil Procedures Regulation 1984.

interests

The main considerations for requesting a temporary injunction are the likelihood of prevailing and the balance of interests of the two parties, but where the Court considers that the likelihood of prevailing is greater, they will be less concerned about the balance of interests, and the opposite is also true.

When deciding on a temporary injunction, the court also has Read the rest of this entry »


Passed Off Pasta?

February 8, 2018

barilla pasta

Barilla is an Italian pasta brand that is on sale in Israel.

Oddly enough, pasta is made of durum wheat (Triticum durum or Triticum turgidum subsp. durum), which is a tetraploid species of wheat which is hard to mill due to the starchy endosperm. Dough made from its flour is weak or “soft”. This makes durum favorable for couscous (semolina) and pasta, and less practical for flour. It is actually grown in Israel and exported to Italy!

Rami Levy

Rami Levy (Shivuk HaShikma) is an Israel chain of supermarkets that, as well as selling commercial brands, negotiates with manufacturers and packages its own-brand labels which are usually cheaper.

 

Recently, Rami Levy started stocking its own-label dried pasta.

Rami Levy pasta

As you can see, Rami Levy’s pasta, like Barilla, uses a blue box, albeit a slightly different shade, and has the type of pasta contained viewable through a cellophane window. The type of pasta (penne, spaghetti, cannelloni, etc.) is written in white, although on Barilla’s product, the name is in English letters and on Rami Levy’s own brand, it is in Hebrew. Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma is written across the top and on the side of the box. The name of the brand, written in yellow, seems to be a face with a hat on and wide mouth, but is actually a stylized O followed by lla in italics giving Olla. However, Barilla also ends with an lla.

Barilla sued Rami Levy in the Tel Aviv District Court for a million shekels (about $300,000 US, 250,000 Euros) and obtained an injunction ordering Rami Levy to take their own-brand pasta and sauces off the shelves. Rami Levy filed a counter-suit and the cases are pending.

Rami Levy claims that Barilla waited for over 14 months since Rami Levy introduced their own-label and so the case should be thrown out. He claims that his competition is fair and Barilla should respond by advertising, discounts and special offers. He dismisses allegations of passing off, and argues that there is an overwhelming weight of precedent from the District and Supreme Court that indicates that the similarity is not excessive and that the case is baseless. The name Rami Levy, the Italian series is clearly written in white on blue in large letters.

Barilla has a trademark on their brand name and not on the design of the package or on the blue colour. Rami Levy accuses Barilla of ignoring their own branding and trying to monopolize the blue colour. However the case-law does not support claims of passing off where packages are similar but the trade name is clearly written and there is no likelihood of confusion in such cases. The courts do not recognize rights in a packaging colour. Rami Levy further claims that with over half a billion shekels in sales of “the private brand” in 2017, his sales outstrip those of Barilla. His prices are much lower and this also distinguishes them, and there are a number of accumulative differences.

COMMENT

taaman 1taaman 2

We note that Taaman (pun on taam which means both taste and reason) is an Israeli importer and distributer of staples such as flour, pasta, chocolate, etc. that also has a red logo with white text in an oval. Their name, in Hebrew, is written in a backwards leaning italic font, however as Hebrew is written from right to left, the sloping is the same as that of Barilla. Their pasta is packaged in blue cellophane with a window showing the content. Thus Barilla’s packaging is perhaps less unique than they claim, although Taaman uses cellophane bags and not boxes.

In a recent decision the Deputy Commissioner refused to register a black box with silver trim as a trademark. Back in 2014, Judge Ginat refused to recognize a trade-dress in blue energy drink cans. Judge Binyamini threw out a claim that one ice-cream manufacturer was entitled to a monopoly on gold ice-cream tubs. Then again, Abu Shukra were unable to register their application for a trademark for a coffee package that is similar to Elite’s Turkish coffee.

 

 

 


Cost Ruling in Moshe Lavi vs. Zach Oz – A failed attempt to get a poorly written patent canceled.

December 20, 2017

Figs for ACMoshe Lavi owns Israel Patent No. 157035 titled “MODULAR SUPPORT BRACKET” which describes  a support bracket for an air-conditioner unit. He’s tried to enforce it in the past against Zach Oz Airconditioners LTD, and the parties came to an out-of-court settlement.

Lavi then sued again, and Zach Oz countered by applying to have the patent cancelled. This attempt was unsuccessful and a ruling upholding the patent issued on 5 March 2017.

Lavi then applied for costs under Circular MN 80. According to Lavi and his attorneys, Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Brats, the costs incurred in fighting the Opposition were a fairly massive 526,750.058 Shekels!? We assume that there is a typo here, and the costs requested were just over half a million Shekels and not just over half a billion shekels, as that would be ridiculous even for Pearl Cohen. It seems that they charge in dollars and not Shekels, and are unaware of the need to round up to the nearest 5 agarot.

Lavi claims that he is entitled to the real costs incurred, which are reasonable, necessarily incurred and proportional in the circumstances. He accuses Zach Oz of acting in bad faith by challenging the validity of the patent. His counsel appended a list of legal counsel’s hours, invoices, and an affidavit by Moshe Lavi.

The Respondents Zach Oz, confusingly represented by an Adv. Pearl (not Zeev, even he is aware that fighting both sides of an opposition proceeding is not acceptable) claimed that the costs were unreasonable and some were unnecessary or disproportional. They also claimed that it was Moshe Lavi who acted inequitably. They note that the case-law states that costs are not meant to be a punishment, and the costs in this case were unreasonable and were incurred due to unnecessary wariness by the patentee. Furthermore, the adjudicator is supposed to take into account the public interest and importance in maintaining the integrity of the patent register. Awarding inflated costs in cases that they lose, would discourage people from challenging the validity of patents and would prevent access to legal recourse.

Ruling

The winning party is entitled to costs incurred in legal proceedings. However, the arbitrator is not obliged to rule actual costs, and is required to consider the specifics of the case and judicial policy. See paragraph 19 of Appeal 6793/08 Loar LTD vs Meshulam Levinsten Engineering and Subcontracting Ltd. 28 June 2009.

In the case-law it was ruled that for the Applicant for actual costs to prove that they are reasonable, proportional and necessary in the specific circumstances. See Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva Cooperative for Marketing Agricultural Produce in Israel Ltd. et al. vs. The Authority for granting Import licenses et al. p.d. 70(1) 600, 615 from 30 June 2005. The limitation of costs to being necessary and proportional is:

To prevent a situation wherein the costs awarded are too great, and will discourage parties from seeking justice, will create inequalities and make court proceedings unnecessarily costly, limiting access to the courts. (Appeal 2617/00 Kinneret Quarries ltd. cs. The Nazareth Ilit, Planning and Building Committee, p.d. 70(1) 600, (2005) paragraph 20.

The amount of work invested in preparing submissions, their legal and technical complexity, the stage reached in the proceedings, the behavior of the parties before the court of the patent office and with regard to opposing party, inequitable behavior of the parties, etc. All these are considerations that should be taken into account when considering “the  specifics of the case”.

In this instance, the patentee did win his case and is entitled to recoup costs, and the losing party does not dispute this. However, in this instance, the patentee is not entitled to the requested costs for reasons detailed below.

Firstly, after consideration of the case and the submissions, none of the parties appear to have acted inequitably. It is not irrelevant that neither party has related to the decisions made in this instance, including the main ruling. This is because there is no evidence of inequitable behavior by the parties. Similarly the affidavits are acceptable. In this regard, it is not reasonable to accept the patentee’s allegation that the challenge to their patent was baseless. The file wrapper shows that the challenger made a reasonable and fair attempt to show that the patent was void, based, inter alia, on prior art.

Furthermore, as to the costs requested, the adjudicator, Ms Shoshani Caspi did not think that they were reasonable, essential or proportional, as required by the Tnuva ruling.

The expert opinion of the expert who attended the hearing, costs of 29,685 Shekels including VAT were incurred. This was considered reasonable. It also appears to have been necessarily incurred. However, the Applicants did not need to use lawyers to prepare the expert opinion’s opinion for him, whilst claiming costs for him preparing his opinion as well. This is a double request for costs and should be eradicated.

In his Affidavit, Mr Lavi claimed that the challenge to his patent caused him to spend $137,901.37 including VAT. This is the 499,065.058 Shekels requested by the Applicant, excluding the expert opinion. The Affidavit explains that this sum includes his legal counsel’s work, couriers, printing, etc., however, no evidence of couriers and printing costs were given, and it appears that these incidentals were included in the invoices from his legal representative. To provide evidence for the legal costs incurred, invoices from PCZL were appended which included the hours spent by attorneys working on the case.

One cannot ignore the fact that the list of work done included demanding extensions, attempts to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, interim proceedings that the opposing party won, an appeal of the refusal to throw the case out, https://blog.ipfactor.co.il/2015/03/08/il-157035-if-one-accused-of-infringing-a-patent-does-not-challenge-its-validity-is-the-accused-estoppeled/

and other costs that are not essential and thus not reasonably chargeable to the other side.

double dipThe attempt to roll these unnecessary costs to the losing side and the double charging for the expert witness are inappropriate to use an understatement, and one assumes that these requests were made inadvertently as they were signed by educated attorneys that are well versed in the relevant legal processes.

Furthermore, after a detailed review of the file, Ms Yaara Shashani Caspi concluded that the case was relatively simple and there were neither particularly complicated legal or factual questions. Consequently, it is difficult to accept that the request for costs of 499,065.058 Shekels [sic] including VAT is reasonable, essential or proportional in the circumstances. It will be noted that as ruled in the Tnuva case (paragraph 19). The real costs that the patentee incurred is only the starting point and not the end point of the costs ruling.

It transpires that the time spent in each round was very large. For example, 65 hours was spent on a request to cancel an expert opinion, and 44 hours on the request for costs, etc. The Applicant did not provide an acceptable justification for these figures.

In light of the above, legal costs will be awarded by estimation, and in addition to the 27,685 Shekels (including VAT) to the expert witness, a further 150,000 Shekels (including VAT) are awarded in legal fees.

The deadline for paying the costs is 30 days, then interest will be incurred.

Legal Costs Ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi in cancellation proceedings of IL 157035 Moshe Lavie vs. Zach Oz, 25 October 2017.

Comment

The whole case was mishandled by Zach Oz, who could and should have won the original infringement case in court, but decided to accept a poorly worded out-of-court settlement. By any reasonable attempt to construe the claims so that the patent was not anticipated by support brackets for shelves, Zach Oz’ supports were not infringing. In other words, they could have used the Gillette defense.

Ms Shoshani Caspi’s criticism of PCZL overcharging and double dipping is appropriate in this instance. The attempt to have the case thrown out on a creative estoppel based on not having challenged the validity of the patent when sued for infringement was ridiculous. Ironically, this patent is not worth the costs spent on litigating it. This is a clear instance of lose-lose by all concerned except the lawyers.


Filing Baseless Patent Infringement Complaints in the US Can be Expensive

August 30, 2017
Octane fitnessIcon Health and Fitness sued Octane Fitness for patent infringement in 2009, claiming that Octane’s high-end elliptical machines infringed US Patent No. 6,019,710, which describes an elliptical machine that allows for adjustments to accommodate individual strides. After two years of litigation, a district court judge found that Octane’s machines didn’t infringe. Octane asked for an award of legal fees, but in 2011, a judge rejected the company’s bid. That decision was upheld on appeal.
It is very rare for US courts to rule costs. This has resulted in the so-called patent troll phenomenon, wherein companies sue for patent infringement on very shaky grounds assuming that they have little to lose.

In this instance, Octane Fitness appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on the case in 2014. In 9-0 vote, the court issued an opinion (PDF) making it much easier to get attorney’s fees. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion, holding that patent laws call for awarding fees in an “exceptional” case, which is “simply one that stands out from others with respect to the substantive strength of a party’s litigating position… or the unreasonable manner in which the case was litigated.”

With that, the case was kicked back down to the lower courts. Under the new standard, the district court judge awarded $1.6 million to Octane over the objections of Icon lawyers.

On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld (PDF) that award in its entirety. The district court found that Icon’s claim construction arguments were “wholly at odds with the patent text, prosecution history, and inventor testimony,” The court also found that Icon included Nellie’s Fitness, an equipment distributor, as a defendant for the purpose increasing Octane’s legal costs.

The appeals judges found “no clear error in its analysis” and upheld the district court’s award. The panel dismissed a cross-appeal by Octane asking for a larger award, which would also cover litigation over the fees.

COMMENT

trollThe case is reminiscent of a frivolous law suit brought by Pearl Cohen on behalf of Vagabond Source, where the courts ruled that Source’s counsel (i.e. Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer pay $187,308.65 in partial attorney’s fees, but that Source not be sanctioned. Pearl Cohen appealed that ruling, and lost again in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

We think that such cost rulings are in order to prevent abuse of the system.

 


Polo

August 11, 2017

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.

 


Chipsico – a Competing Marks Proceeding Where Both Marks were Refused

July 11, 2017

267474On 13 August 2014, the New Dubak Natsha ltd filed Israel trademark application no. 267474 in class 29 for chips (potato crisps). The stylized mark is shown alongside, and reads CHIPSICO Batates Modalaah – (Chipsico Crinkle-Cut Potato Chips).

The same day, the Halawani Industrial Company ltd filed two trademark applications for coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, tapioca, sago, coffee substitute, flour and grain products, bread, wafers, cakes and sweets, honey, treacle, yeast, baking powder, salt, mustard, pepper, vinegar, tomato paste, seasoning mixtures, spices, frozen foods, snacks and crackers. The first application was Israel Trademark No. 267770 CHIPSICO and the second, 267772 was for شيبسيكو, which is Chipsico written in Arabic.

crinkle cutThe trademark department considered the marks as being confusingly similar and the parties failed to reach an agreement, so on 8 May 2016, a competing marks proceeding under Section 29 of the Ordinance was initiated and the parties were invited to present their evidence.

New Dubak Natsha ltd submitted: Read the rest of this entry »