A Fresh Trademark Opposition Costs Ruling

March 23, 2018

be fresh

On 14 April 2015, Benny Pauza Sumum (2009) ltd. submitted Israel trademark application no. 273816 in classes 32 and 33 for Be Fresh, as shown. The mark was allowed on 4 May 2017 and published for opposition purposes. On 27 July 2017, a Turkish company called Cakiemelikoglu Maden Suyu Isletmesi Sanay Ve Ticaret Anonim Sirketi filed an opposition against the class 32 registration. On 27 September 2018 the Applicant filed a counter-statement of case. The Opposer chose not to file their evidence and on 1 January 2018, the agent-of-record of the Applicant approached the Opposer directly. In the absence of a response, three weeks later, the Applicant requested that the Opposition be rejected and that costs be awarded.

Ruling

Under Section 38 of the Israel Trademark Ordinance 1940, the Opposer should have filed their evidence by 28 September 2017. Until now, the Opposer has failed to submit evidence in an Opposition proceeding they themselves initiated. Consequently, under Section 39, the Opposer is considered as a party that abandoned a legal proceeding that they themselves initiated.

If the Opposer does not submit evidence, he is considered as having abandoned the Opposition unless the Commissioner rules otherwise.

In this instance, the Applicant requested real costs of 21,060 Shekels including VAT for filing the counter Statement-of-Case and also for filing the request to close the file. The request was accompanied by a tax invoice showing that the charges were indeed incurred.

It is true that the winning side is entitled to real costs, i.e. those actually incurred. However, the Arbitrator is not required to award the costs incurred, and should consider the circumstances and legal policy. See Appeal 6793/08 Luar ltd vs. Meshulam Levinstein Engineering and Sub-contracting ltd, 28 June 2009, and particularly section 19 thereof.

The case-law requires the party requesting costs to show that they are reasonable, proportional and necessary for conducting the proceedings in the specific circumstances. See Bagatz 891/05 Tnuva Cooperative et al. vs. The Authority for Import and Export Licenses at the Dept of Industry, 30 June 2005, p.d. 60(1) 600, 615. The purpose of the reasonable, proportional and necessary limitation is:

To prevent a situation where the costs are so high that they will discourage parties from filing suit, create a lack of equality before the law and make litigation too expensive to enable access to the judiciary. (Appeal 2617/00 Kinneret Quarries Partnership vs. the Municipal Committee for Planning and Construction, Nazareth Elite, p.d. 60(1) 600 (2005) paragraph 20).

The amount of work invested in the proceeding and in the preparation of legal submissions, the legal and factual complexity of the case, the stage reached, the parties behavior to each other and to the court and any inequitable behavior are all taken into account in the ‘specifics of the case’.

The reasonableness of actual costs was considered in Re Tnuva on page 18 paragraph 24, and it was ruled that where an issue is significant to a party it is reasonable for him to invest more heavily in the legal proceedings and doing so is likely to be considered reasonable.

That said, the more a cost claim appears exaggerated, the more evidence is required to substantiate it. See for example, the Opposition to IL 153109 Unipharm vs. Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, cost request paragraph 9, 29 March 2011. 

Section 69 of the Trademark Ordinance 1972 states that:

In all hearings before the Commissioner, the Commissioner is entitled to award costs he considers as reasonable.

The Court of the Patent and Trademark Authority has previously ruled that simply submitting a copy of an invoice is insufficient. The requester for costs should detail the actions performed, and why they were reasonable, and similarly for the other parameters detailed in re Tnuva. From the submission it is apparent that the Applicant has not submitted sufficient evidence to support the cost claim to justify it. Consequently the Adjudicator Ms Shoshani Caspi estimates appropriate costs for the work involved.

In this case the mark holder had to file a counter-statement-of-case and a costs request. The case does not appear to be particularly complicated and the Applicant did not have to file evidence since the case was abandoned. Nevertheless, the Opposer initiated and then abandoned the procedure and didn’t even bother telling the Patent Office that they had done so.

After humming and hawing detailed consideration and by her authority under Section 69 of the Ordinance, the Adjudicator ruled that 4500 NIS + VAT was appropriate and gave the Opposer 14 days to pay this, or to incur interest.

Opposition to Israel trademark no. 273816  “Be Fresh”, cost ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi, 21 February 2018


“Think Different” and “Tick Different” –

March 21, 2018

Tick different

Apple Inc filed Israel trademark no. 284172 for the slogan “Think Different” in classes 14, 28, 35, 36, 41 and 42.

Then Swatch AG filed Israel Trademark Nos. 281116 and 281332 for “Tick Different” in classes 9 and 14.

Now “think” and “tick” mean totally different things, but visually, the marks have a similarity, in that they both start with a t, have an I in the middle, and end with a k. The Israel Trademark Examiner saw a likelihood of confusion for fashion conscious illiterates or those whose mother tongue is not English, and instituted a competing marks procedure.

Apple’s slogan ‘think different’ dates back to 1997 and was a response by Steve Jobs to IBM’s “Think” campaign, and they already have a registered mark no. 266923 for “Think Different” in class 9. Consequently, in an Office Action Swatch’s marks were refused to under Section 11(9) of the Ordinance.

On 1 November 2017, Apple requested that the competing marks procedure be suspended until if and when Swatch managed to overcome the Section 11(9) objection.

Think different

Apple claims to be one of the leading technology companies in the world. They allege that the “Think Different” campaign should be considered a “well-known mark” under the relevant section of the Ordinance, and is thus entitled to wide protection against marks, seen in different classes, and Swatch’s Tick Different is confusingly similar thereto. Furthermore, Swatch’s application was rejected under Section 11(9) of the Ordinance in light of Apple’s registered mark. Apple considers the Angel Bakery vs. Shlomo Angel Patisserie LTD from 2016 as a relevant precedent. In that case, there was a competing marks proceeding in parallel with formal examination based on earlier registered marks and former Commissioner Asa Kling suspended the Competing Marks proceeding whilst examining the registerability of one mark based on previously registered marks. In this instance as well, Apple argues that it is ridiculous to have to fight a competing marks proceeding, where, if Swatch were to win, they would in all probability not be able to register their mark in light of the previously registered Apple mark.

swatch

On 4 February 2018 Swatch responded, claiming that the competing marks procedure should NOT be suspended since unlike the Angel’s case, Think Different should not prevent Tick Different from being registered. Reasons given included that Apple was not using Think Different in Class 9, and because the marks were not confusingly similar phonetically or visually, and anyway Class 9 (Computers, Software, Electronic instruments, & Scientific appliances) and Class 14 (precious metals and their alloys and goods in precious metals or coated therewith, hierological and chronometric instruments).

Swatch considers that a competing marks procedure is necessary to decide which mark takes precedence. Swatch considers that the Commissioner is obliged to conduct a competing marks procedure if there are pending marks to two applicants that are confusingly similar and the parties are unable to agree to coexist, and this should occur prior to examination of the a priori registerability of either mark. The Angel’s case is different since in this instance, the list of goods to be protected by the mark is different for the two applicants.

ON 14 February 2018, Apple responded that they were using the Think Different mark, the two marks were undeniably similar and the Angel case is very relevant. Furthermore, as far as competing marks is concerned, it is irrelevant if the applied for marks are in the same category or not.

RULING

Section 29(a) is the proceeding that decides which of competing marks takes precedent:

Where separate applications are made by different persons to be registered as proprietors respectively of identical, or similar to a misleading degree, trademarks in respect of the same goods or goods of the same trade description, and the later application was filed before the acceptance of the prior application, the Registrar may refrain from accepting the applications until their respective rights have been determined by agreement between them approved by the Registrar. In the absence of such agreement or approval, the Registrar shall decide, for reasons which shall be recorded, which application shall continue to be processed pursuant to the provisions of this Ordinance.

Where the Commissioner uses his Section 29(a) discretionary power, there are two applicants that use the same or very similar marks. In such circumstances, the Section 29a ruling will cancel the rights of one of the parties to use the mark where, were it not for the competing mark, both applicants would be able to use their marks. Thus it is the second application that might make the mark non-registerable and effectively both parties attempt to prevent the other from continuing to use a mark.

In a long list of decisions and rulings, the Trademark Office considers the following:

  1. Who filed first?
  2. The extent of usage, and
  3. Issues of bad faith in selecting the mark.

See for example, Appeal 11188/03 Contact Linsen Israel ltd vs. Commissioner of Patents & Trademarks (5 May 2005) and Appeal 878/04 Yotvata ltd. vs. Tnuva Cooperative 4 March 2007 and Appeal 8987/05 Yehuda Malchi vs. Sabon Shel Paam (2000) ltd.

As a rule, in the Competing Marks procedure, the issue of registerability over existing marks is not considered, and there is an assumption that both marks are registerable and would be registered if not for the Competing Marks Proceeding (See Bagatz 228/65 Fromein & sons ltd vs Pro Pro Biscuits ltd p.d. 19(3) 337 (1965) where Judge Salzmann stated:

A proceeding under Section 17 (now Section 29) is not intended to determine whether a mark is registerable. In such a proceeding the Commissioner works under the assumption that both marks are registerable. At a later stage, after the mark has published and an opposition is filed, this assumption may be lost.

If it is clear that if the Commissioner is not willing to assume registerability of both marks, he will not initiate a Competing Marks procedure under Section 29(a) of the Ordinance. It is only sensible to start a Section 29a proceeding if one can assume that the marks are registerable under Sections 8, 11 and 12, and the following quotation from Frohmein is relevant here:

Where the Commissioner is not willing to assume (that the two marks are otherwise registerable), it is inappropriate to proceed according to Section 17 (i.e. Section 29) and consider which mark takes precedence, since this assumes that both marks would be registerable if not for the competing mark (BAGATZ 228/65 [1] page 341).

Furthermore, Judge Barak added in re Al Din that under a Section 29a proceeding, the Commissioner has the authority to decide that neither mark is registerable before launching the Competing Marks Proceeding since there is no point or value in to conduct a long inter-partes proceeding where neither mark is registerable:

“Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent the Commissioner to refrain from determining which mark takes precedence under Section 29 if, based on the evidence before him, neither is registerable. (Bagatz 90/70 [3]. For what is the purpose of holding a long and involved proceeding under Section 29 of the Ordinance if at the end it is determined that the party with the greater lack of registerability will not be awarded the mark in his name?”

Indeed, even if a Competing Marks Proceeding IS initiated under Section 29a, there is nothing to stop the Commissioner (and from re AL Din it is indeed fitting for him to) from considering if either mark is registerable. Otherwise the parties can waste time fighting a Competing Marks procedure only for the winning party to later learn that the mark cannot be registered in his name.

The inherently logical approach is to first consider registerability and only then to hold a Competing Marks procedure, as the Supreme Court ruled in Bagatz 296/85 Siya Siyak Nau (Anthony) vs. The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks. p. d. 40(4) 770 where, in pages 775-776 of the ruling, it is stated that:

The Authority of the Commissioner to consider registerability coexists with the authority to consider which party takes priority. There is no room to consider which mark takes precedence where there is no registration worthy mark. Anyway, the other party will prevail over the applicant for the non-registerable mark.

This problematic nature of the Competing Marks Proceeding was realized by the Commission of Patents and Trademarks in 1167390 and 166845 Danin vs Shidurei Keshet ltd (26 December 2005) where it was ruled that:

It is a matter of case-law that Section 29 proceedings with respect to competing marks do not relate to the registerability of the marks per se, but only with regards to which of the two pending applications should take precedent. See re Frohmein 342, and Bagatz 450/80 p.d. 35, 187 (2) on page 189, Eshel and Sabon shel Paam, is only true with regards to considering registerabily of the  mark from one party, and is noted that the preference of one party over the other is not indicative that the mark is registerable and does not guarantee that it will be registered. However, one is uncomfortable with a situation where a party that wins a competing mark proceeding will eventually have their mark refused, and the party that loses the competing marks proceeding can then reapply and register their mark.

On 23 February 2012 Circular 013/2012 was published. This relates to Competing Marks Proceedings where objections are also raised against the registerability of one or other mark. Under the Circular, the parties to the Competing Marks Proceeding are allowed to file a joint submission to suspend the Competing Marks Proceeding under Section 29a until the substantive objections are addressed.

In subsequent proceedings, as in this instance, the parties do not see eye to eye, as in the Angel case:

As stated in the Circular, the parties have the opportunity to make a joint submission to request substantive examination […] however in this instance, one party’s issued marks are cited against the application of the other party whilst there is a Competing Marks Proceeding under section 29a of the Ordinance. This scenario results in the party whose marks are cited to prefer the substantive objections to be dealt with first. If the Applicant is NOT able to overcome the substantive objection, the Section 29a proceeding is moot, saving the other party the cost and aggravation of the competing marks proceeding and makes it unlikely that the parties will agree on suspension.

Since this Circular was published, there have been a number of Competing Marks Proceedings that were suspended pending rulings on registerability. However, these requests were submitted without agreement of both parties and different rulings ensued, see for example PayPal Inc. vs. Online Ordering ltd, 5 January 2017George Shukha Haifa ltd. vs. Fareed Khalaf Sons Company, 27 November 2016the Angel rulingetc. It has been established that in some cases, one can ignore the joint request requirement and the Commissioner can simply suspend the Competing Marks Proceeding pending consideration of the substantive objections.

In this instance, there are substantive objections against the Swatch mark, however the parties disagree regarding suspending the Competing Marks Proceeding.

Swatch’s “Tick Different” marks are objected to in light of registered Apple marks for “Think Different”, whereas apart from the Competing Marks Proceeding, the new Apple think Different mark is not objected to. One cannot conclude that were there not to be a Competing Marks Proceeding, Swatch’s marks would certainly be registerable.

An issued mark that has been examined, allowed, and published for opposition purposes, is considered stronger than a pending application. For example, the owner of a registered mark is entitled to a monopoly for that mark and this is not the case with a mark that has yet to be allowed. A registered mark can be enforced against infringers, whereas a pending mark cannot, unless it is a well-known mark. Thus it would appear that Apple’s issued Think Different mark should take priority over the pending Swatch mark.

Consequently, the Adjudicator of IP, Ms Yaara Shoshani Caspi rules that it is appropriate to consider whether or not there is a confusing similarity between the two marks BEFORE considering the Competing Marks issue.

Ms Shoshani Caspi notes that she is unhappy with Swatch arguing two contradictory positions. Swatch has submitted copious arguments to the effect that “Tick Different” is not confusingly similar to “Think Different”, but nevertheless, it is appropriate to fight a Competing Marks Procedure which is based on the inherent understanding that there is a confusing similarity and the marks cannot coexist.  Thus Swatch is arguing that classes 9 and 14 (computers and watches) are different classes of goods, but nevertheless a Competing Marks Proceeding is appropriate.

It is fitting to allow Swatch to try to argue that Tick Different in classes 9 and 14 is not confusingly similar to Think Different in class 9 which is already registered. It is right to do this before addressing the Competing Marks Procedure.

This ruling is in accordance with the Angel’s decision where there was also a Section 11(9) objection and the Competing Marks Proceeding was suspended pending resolution of the objections.

Swatch is to respond to the substantive Section 11(9) objections against the two Tick Different applications, within 30 days. If successful, the Competing Marks Proceeding will ensue.

Ruling by Ms Shoshani Caspi re Think Different to Apple vs. Tick Different to Swatch, 28 February 2018

 


Sleepless in Seattle?

March 7, 2018

Sleepless in SeattleThe International Trademark Association (INTA) hosts a party conference every year, where approximately 10,000 patent and trademark attorneys work hard swapping business cards in the hope of generating work. This year, the conference runs from 19 May 2018 to 23 May 2018.

Shavuot, or Pentecost, is the Feast of Weeks. It follows seven weeks after the first day of Pesach (Passover), and this year starts on the evening of Saturday the 19th May 2018 and finishes on the evening of Monday 21 May 2018.

10 commandmentsIn Temple times, Shavuot was primarily a Harvest Festival, celebrating the end of the wheat harvest. It was also the Feast of New Fruits. By a little calculation, it appears that the Sinaitic Revelation and the receiving of the Decalogue took place on Shavuot as well. Lacking positive commandments beyond the Temple sacrifices, Shavuot is traditionally celebrated by an all night study program.

It is tempting to be Sleepless in Seattle, and the film was one of my favorite romantic movies. However, it seems a long way to go to be able to participate only in the Tuesday program at INTA this year. I am, therefore, not attending. The small number of KIPA members (Kosher IP Attorneys) that traditionally get together for dinner one evening in INTA at the local Kosher restaurant or Chabad House, will not be meeting there this year.

On the bright side, Seattle is probably a very nice city, but unlike some of the iconic conference cities, it is not a destination I am bothered about missing.

 


Repeated Requests for Reconsideration Smashed

February 22, 2018

smash batmanBack in May 2017 we reported that Talber Pop LTD owns Israel trademark number 240598 “SMASH” for Notebooks, stationery, diaries, binders; gift wrapping paper, paper gift wrapping bows, paper cake decorations, paper party bags, loot bags, cello bags, paper party decorations, paper party hats, paper tables cloths, paper napkins, banner made of paper and/or cardboards; all included in class 16, and Backpacks, sidepacks, back bags, side bags, sport bags, tote bags, book bags, school bags, food bags, pencil cases sold empty, wallets, waist packs, briefcases, bike bags, toiletry cases sold empty, fanny packs, suitcases, umbrellas, umbrella covers; all included in class 18. They also own a second Israel trademark number 241238 for SMASH in class 14 covering watches, chronometers and their parts, and that Smash Enterprises Pty LTD submitted a request to cancel the Talber Pop LTD marks or to allow their marks to be co-registered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smash Enterprises Pty LTDs  application no 274301 is for Containers for household or kitchen use; household or kitchen utensils; containers for beverages; containers for food; heat insulated containers for beverages; heat retaining containers for food and drink; insulated containers; lunch boxes; isothermic bags; bottles including water bottles (containers); beverage coolers (containers); drinking containers; portable coolers; ice containers; ice packs; plastic containers (household utensils); lids for household or kitchen containers; tableware, including plates, dishes, drinking glasses, bowls, cups, saucers, mugs and jugs, all being of plastic materials; cooking utensils for use with domestic barbecues; storage boxes, baskets and containers for household use; household rubbish containers (bins); glassware for domestic use; ceramic tableware; baking trays; storage jars; cooler bags; thermally insulated bags for food and drink. In class 21.

Talber Pop LTD’s mark 24059 is for Watches of all kinds; chronometers and part thereof and accessories; all included in class 14, for Notebooks, stationery, diaries, binders; gift wrapping paper, paper gift wrapping bows, paper cake decorations, paper party bags, loot bags, cello bags, paper party decorations, paper party hats, paper tables cloths, paper napkins, banner made of paper and/or cardboards; all included in class 16, and for Backpacks, sidepacks, back bags, side bags, sport bags, tote bags, book bags, school bags, food bags, pencil cases sold empty, wallets, waist packs, briefcases, bike bags, toiletry cases sold empty, fanny packs, suitcases, umbrellas, umbrella covers; all included in class 18.

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

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

Thus the Arbitrator Ms Shoshani Caspi finds herself considering two identical marks for the word SMASH for two different entities that cover inter alia the same goods which creates a strong risk of confusion.

As part of their joint submission. the parties should have provided a detailed explanation why TM 274301 in class 21 should be registerable together with TM 240598 in class 18. This wasn’t done, and the parties have provided no explanation as to how to avoid confusion. The request for coexistence is refused. The parties have until 1 June 2017 to inform whether they wish to conduct a cancellation proceeding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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.

 

 

 


A ballsy trademark ruling

January 30, 2018

SodKGaA & Henkel AG filed a series of Israel trademark applications (Nos.  258658, 258797, 258798 and 259500 as shown alongside.258658

The marks cover Bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use, rinsing agents for laundry and tableware, stain removing preparations; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations, chemical agents for cleaning metal, enameled sheet metal, wood, cork, porcelain, ceramic, glass, plastic, leather and textiles; spot remover; soaps not for personal use, perfumery, essential oils in class 3, “Disinfectants and deodorants other than for humans and animals”. In class 5, and Sponges, brushes, cleaning cloths, cleaning purposes, hand-operated cleaning appliances, devices for dispensing sanitary cleaning and fragrance products, partially with the addition of disinfectant, included in class 21.

The Israel Trademark Department refused to register the marks on the grounds that they lacked inherent distinctiveness as indication of source, since they were the shape of the products themselves. The marks were also refused under Section 8(b) of the Ordinance 1972, as not having acquired distinctiveness through use.

The Applicant claimed that the marks are registerable since they serve in practice as a trademark, have acquired distinctiveness through use, and the choice of shape is not a result of real aesthetic or practical considerations. The Applicant requested a hearing, and submitted the following evidence:

  • An opinion by Mr Oshik Roshnik, marketing consultant, who held a public survey regarding how well known the marks were. Mr Roshnik attended the hearing and the survey and his conclusions are detailed below.
  • An affidavit from Ms Danielle Rabinowitz who is the product manager for Henkel Sod ltd, which is fully owned by the Applicant. Her testimony affirmed the sales in Israel and abroad and the investment in advertising and promotional activity. Ms Rabinowitz also attended at the hearing.
  • An Affidavit of Ms Cecile Leroi the International Marketing Manager of the Applicant, who testified regarding sales.

A large quantity of marketing material was appended to the affidavits.

sod balls.jpg

From the evidence it appears that the products are sold in Israel in blister packs that have transparent fronts. The mark Sod appears clearly on the packaging, which is the brand for these and other products of the Applicant in Israel. The Sod mark is recognized as being a leading brand in Israel.

juggling four balls

The Applicant claimed that since January 2014 they have invested 15 million shekels in advertising and marketing in various telecommunication channels, including point-of-sale. As a result of this intense marketing, some 6 million units have been sold, which is 30% of the market. These statistics support the Applicant’s contention that the marks have acquired distinctiveness.

The Applicant’s legal counsel emphasized that the marks were registered in a number of countries, including the EUIPO. The Applicant is also prepared for the mark to be registered under Section 16.

Discussion

toffiffee

The tests for validity of a trademark registration for the shape of an article was given in the Supreme Court ruling 11487/03 August Storck KG vs. Alfa Inuit Food Products LTD, of 23 March 2003. These tests are summarized in Circular 033/2016 Trademarks: Emphasis on Examining trademarks from 15 December 2016 as follows:

  1. The requested shape has to serve as a trademark in practice
  2. The requested shape cannot be significantly aesthetic or practical.
  3. The shape has acquired distinctiveness through use

This topic has been widely discussed in the case-law and literature in Israel and abroad. The tests have been largely adopted due to comparative law, and so we can use foreign rulings to aid us in coming to a conclusion.

Nevertheless, the Deputy Commissioner does not consider that the applied for mark fulfils the Supreme Court’s criteria.

The Mark Does Not Serve As a Trademark in Practice

The question asked in this context is whether the public and the applicant see the shape of the mark separately from other marks that are applied to the product to indicate the source, thereby serving as trademarks. As clarified in Berkeley “Kerly’s Law of Trade Marks and Trade Names“, 15th ed. (2011) p. 197, from a UK decision regarding the registerability of the shape of a container:

The relevant question is not whether the container would be recognised on being seen a second time, that is to say, whether it is of memorable appearance, but whether by itself its appearance would convey trade mark significance to the average customer.”

The things are stated regarding containers, but this is also true regarding the shape of the products themselves, since these are not generally considered as being trademarks by the public, and the packaging includes the well known word mark Sod as a trademark indicating the source of the goods. It is true that sometimes a single object will have more than one trademark on it, each being independently registerable. However, in such cases it is difficult for the manufacturer to demonstrate that the public afford each element weight as a trademark: See J. Thomas McCarthey in McCarthey on Trademarks and Unfair Competition (2011), pages 7-12:

“When a label or advertisement contains a cluttered morass of claimed marks in many words, slogans and designs, no one of these things is likely to make a significant trademark impression on customers. If a given designation is a trademark, that should be immediately evident to the ordinary buyer. If it takes extended analysis and legalistic argument to attempt to prove that a designation has been used in a trademark sense, then it has not.”

kitkatThe need for the public and the manufacturer to rely on the shape of the product as an indication of the source of the product is required for it to be registerable has been discussed recently in the UK decision [2017] EWCA Civ 358 Société des Produits Nestlé SA  v. Cadbury UK Ltd. (Kit Kat). In this ruling, the court affirmed the ruling of two lower courts that the shape of the KitKat snack bar is not registerable. In that case, the issue of the burden of proof for registering a product shape was referred to the CJEU:

The judge thought that the answer to this question was not clear and depended upon what was meant by “use of the mark as a trade mark”. As he put it: does it require the applicant to show that, as a result of the use of the mark, consumers rely on the mark as a trade mark, or is it sufficient that consumers recognise the mark and associate it with the applicant’s goods?”

The UK court considered that the European Court’s position was that the public have to rely on the product shape as a source of origin, and not merely to recognize the product shape:

“Accordingly, I agree with the judge that it is legitimate for a tribunal, when assessing whether the applicant has proved that a significant proportion of the relevant class of persons perceives the relevant goods or services as originating from a particular undertaking because of the sign in question, to consider whether such person would rely upon the sign as denoting the origin of the goods or services if it were used on its own. Further, if in any case it is shown that consumers have come to rely upon the mark as an indication of origin then this will establish that the mark has acquired distinctiveness”

Deputy Commissioner Jacqueline Bracha does not consider that the survey and publicity material in the present case proves the Applicant’s contention.

In all cases, the word mark Sod clearly appears in the publicity material, and the advertisements all include the word Sod a large number of times. So it does not appear that the applicant is relying on the visual appearance of the product to indicate the origin thereof.

The extent in which the shape of the package is capable of serving as a trademark depends on the degree that they are different from that typical in the field. See for example, Israel Trademark Application No. 174402 Diageo North America, Inc. from 13 April 2011. The Applicant notes that they chose the mark to distinguish themselves from their competitors. The Applicant submitted a lot of material that shows that cleaning materials intended to be hung in the toilet bowl come in different shapes, however all of these include a hook and a perforated plastic case so that they can serve their function of hanging over the rim and allowing water to reach the cleaning material on flushing. The product in question is not sufficiently distinctive that it is recognized by the public as being a trademark. From the material submitted and from a personal search of the Internet it appears that such products come in various shapes and sizes including five flowers, three crescents three rectangles and so one. Most of the products are coloured and two colours are combined in a single product… Many are sold in transparent packages that have the manufacturer’s logo on the upper part.

The mark has not attained distinguishing character through use

There is a connection between the question of whether a mark serves as a trademark in practice and whether it has acquired distinctiveness. The Applicant has to demonstrate that through sales, etc., there is public awareness of the mark.

First and foremost, the Applicant has to show that the goods have a reputation, meaning that the public identifies the goods with the applicant or at least with a specific source, even if not identifying the applicant by name.
….
Continuous significant usage is not what is important, but rather the type of use:  if it is a use that identifies the product with the Applicant, see Appeal 18/86 Israel Venetian Glass Factory vs. Les Verries de Saint Gobain p.d. 45(3) 224, 238.

To prove a relationship between the product and supplier, the Applicant submitted Mr Roshinak’s survey. The questions were directed to respondents who admitted to being the purchasers of domestic hygiene goods for their homes. The respondents were first asked if they were familiar with the products for which the trademarks were sought (specifically the product having Israel TM Application No. 258658). It is noted that the respondents were not asked if they had purchased the product and so those who had seen the advertisements also responded positively and some 67% were familiar with the product. Mr Roshnak explained at the hearing that this is significant. In this regard, it is noted that the publicity campaign was conducted close to the survey and may well have affected the results. See Complaint 31706-01-12 Dan Design Center ltd vs. B.R.A.P. Projects ltd 19 June 2012.

survey3.JPGThose respondents  that responded positively to the first question were asked if the product was known in Israel. The Deputy Commissioner considers this is less relevant since it surveys what the respondents thought and not how well known the product was. In the next stage, the respondents were asked if they were familiar with other products of the same manufacturer and 65% were unaware of any other products or were not sure in their response.

The Deputy Commissioner considers this the most significant part of the survey. The purpose of a trademark is to link a product with other products of the same supplier. See Seligsohn Trademark Law and Similar Law 1973 page 1. If this connection does not exist, the shape of the mark does not serve as a trademark in practice.

In this instance, the majority of the public does not consider the product as associated with a particular supplier and this is clear from the fact that they did not know if the supplier sold other goods. In other words, the public surveyed were unaware of the source of the goods and did not connect the balls with other products marketed under the Sod mark. Since the Applicant acknowledges that Sod is a well known mark associated with a wide range of hygiene products, had they associated the product with Sod, they would have made a connection and mentioned other products.

The Applicant claimed that the acquired distinctiveness exists where the public associate a product with some supplier and not necessarily with a supplier by name. This is true. The principle was established in Appeal 18/86 Israel Venetian Glass Factory vs. Les Verries de Saint Gobain p.d. 45(3) 224, 238. However, in this instance, it is claimed that Sod is a ‘quality brand’ and so it is not reasonable to claim that the majority of the public do not know the brand. Furthermore, from the response to this question, it appears that the majority of the respondents do not relate the product with ANY supplier and for this reason cannot answer whether the supplier supplies additional products.

survey.jpgIn the final survey, the respondents were asked who manufactures or markets the product. This was a multiple choice question with the options Henke, Sod, some other supplier SPECIFY and do not know/not sure. This is a closed-ended leading question similar to that discussed in Opposition 112645 Mei Zach (Clear Water) Shlomo Zach vs. Teneh Industries 1991 ltd from 12 July 2007. Two of the four answers were correct. The others required the respondents to admit to not knowing or to suggest an alternative themselves. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that most respondents answered correctly. Furthermore, the respondents who answered correctly were not even required to remember the manufacturer/supplier’s name themselves….

leading questionMr Rohnak was asked about this during the hearing and responded that respondents are not ashamed to answer that they do not know, and so their choosing a correct answer is significant and indicates knowledge. Mr Roshnak did not think that wording the question differently and giving names of other manufacturers of hygiene products would have led to a different result. This response is speculative and is beyond his competence since it does not relate to making surveys and drawing results but rather to anticipating responses to questions not asked. The fact that most respondents elected “Sod” and not “Do not know” certainly raises the suspicion that the respondents answered that way as the question led them to do so, or because the way the survey was constructed led them to believe that this was the desired response.

Deputy Commissioner Bracha concludes that the survey does not prove that the public identifies the product with the source. Furthermore, it really indicates a lack of identification with any source.

By way of comparison, in the KitKat ruling, most respondents recognized KitKat as being an image of the snack without the name being suggested to them. Nevertheless, the court held that the manufacture does not rely on this recognition and the shape is not eligible for registration. In this instance, the public could not identify the source without leading questions that posed the correct response.

In evidence of acquired distinctiveness, the Applicant submitted an affidavit of the product manager. It is not denied that the Applicant invested large sums in promoting the product to the result that they captured a significant 30% of the market. However, this does not show that the public identifies the product with the supplier without the Sod mark clearly shown.

In light of the above, having concluded that the mark does not have distinguishing characteristics, it cannot be registered under Section 16 either.

The mark is therefore refused.

Ruling by Ms Jacqueline Bracha re 4 Balls Shape Mark to KGaA & Henkel AG 258658, 258797, 258798 and 259500, 18 December 2018.


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.