Evangelical Television and Temporary Injunctions

May 9, 2018

voice of hope2

High Adventure Ministries sued Strategic Group, The Voice of Hope LTD and Rev John D. Tayloe (presumably Taylor?) for using “the Voice of Hope” for spreading evangelical messages.

This case related to a Request to Appeal a refusal to grant a temporary injunction that was issued by Judge M Amit-Anisman of the Tel Aviv – Jaffa District Court on 27 November 2017.

The background relates to the parties’ activities concerning dissemination of Evangelical Christian messages via the radio and similar, under the name “Voice of Hope”.

The background relates to the parties’ activities concerning dissemination of Evangelical Christian messages via the radio and similar, under the name “Voice of Hope”.

high global

The Appellant, High Adventure Ministries, has used the mark for many years, and sued the defendants Strategic Group, The Voice of Hope LTD and Rev John D. Tayloe in the Tel Aviv – Jaffa District Court claiming passing off, Unjust Enrichment and infringement of a well-known trademark albeit not registered in Israel.

During the proceeding, they submitted a request for a temporary injunction to forbid the defendants using the mark. This interim injunction (Case 65046-06-17) was refused by Judge M Amit-Anisman on 27 November 2017. She ruled that the Plaintiff had a case, at least under the tort of passing off, but considered that the significance of the case, the balance of convenience and justice considerations tilted the scales in favour of the defendants, stressing that:

  1. The defendants had used a radio station named Voice of Hope for a number of months and its establishment had required an investment of millions of dollars.
  2. The radio station broadcasts in Arabic and is directed to listeners in various Arab countries, whereas the plaintiff’s transmissions are in English and are directed to English speakers.
  3. The plaintiff had known about the intention to establish the radio station at least a year ago but had been tardy in filing a complaint and so was not deserving of a temporary restriction order.

voice of hope

The plaintiff claims that the defendants’ website includes English and so they also direct their efforts to English speakers. They argue that it is not proven that a temporary injunction will cause the defendants damage, however NOT granting a temporary injunction will do them damage, and they contested the allegation of tardiness. They argued that they had a good case and accused the defendants of inequitable behaviour. The defendants meanwhile, argued that the Court of First Instance was correct to refuse to grant a temporary injunction and did not consider that the case should be appealable.

This issue is one of temporary injunctions, which are relevant to trademark issues. In this field, the Court of First Instance that considers the case has wide discretionary powers and the Court of Appeal has limited authority to intervene where the Court of First instance has the information before it and hears witnesses and gets an impression of their reliability. There are, however, exceptional cases where intervention is justified, but is this one of them?
Antenna

Whether or not to grant interim injunctions depends on two main variables: the likelihood of prevailing, and the balance of convenience.

The court of first instance determined that there was a case to be answered. However, it was the balance of convenience and considerations of justice that tilted the scales into not issuing the temporary injunction. Thus despite considering that there was a case, it was the balance of convenience issue that was considered more important. Here, both sides argued that it was not proven that the other party would suffer irreversible damage. In this regard, Judge Handel emphasized two points:

Firstly, apart from general waffle, neither party provided concrete data supporting their suspicions that the damage they would suffer would be irreversible. For example, the defendants invested significant sums in establishing their radio station but did not show that much of that investment was in branding, and that changing the name of the channel temporarily would adversely affect their profitability. That said, since they are already broadcasting under the name Voice of Hope, there is no doubt that a temporary injunction would inconvenience them, not so much due to the start-up investment costs, but because a change of name could cause confusion and lose them listeners.

The plaintiff Appellant did not indicate why failure to grant a temporary injunction would cause him damage. Here the emphasis is on the fact that the radio station broadcasts in Arabic, whereas those of the plaintiff Appellant are in English. So the target audience is different, and there is no support to the claim that the plaintiff Appellant will suffer damage, and thus no support that he would suffer irreversible damages. In this regard, Judge Handel considered the claim that the plaintiff Appellant had a world-wide reputation as the Voice of Hope, but as the District Court stated, in the request for a temporary injunction, the plaintiff Appellant failed to provide the factual basis for the claim that Arabic speakers are familiar with the Voice of Hope and would link the defendants’ station with the Israeli body that uses that name. Thus even if Judge Handel would accept the claim that the name Voice of Hope is indeed a well-known mark around the world that is associated with the plaintiff Appellant, that would not be a sufficient basis to grant the temporary injunction.  See for example, the Opposition to Israel Trademark Application Number142266 “No limits eyewear” (2 May 2004). It is noted that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff who wants the temporary injunction, expect for one exception, and here the second consideration comes into play.

Secondly, the defendants’ Internet site gives the impression that the radio station is the one established in 1979-2000 that no longer broadcasts, For example they state:  

“In 2014 we reestablish the VOICE OF HOPE radio station which had broadcast from South Lebanon from 1979-2000 The airwaves have been silent for 17 years, until today!

In other words, the defendants are glorifying themselves as reestablishing the station that the plaintiff had owned. Since the word mark is the same for the two stations, and the dove logo is similar, there is indeed likelihood that English speakers would erroneously conclude that the defendants’ station is associated with the plaintiff.  Similar erroneous messages are found in other English advertisements used by the defendants, appended as annexes 4-8 of the Appeal.

This suspicion of misleading the consumers throws a special light on this proceeding which relates to trademarks. Unlike other civil disagreements such as contract law, with regards to intellectual property, there is a third wheel to the conflict – the public.

The purpose of the Law of is not merely the narrow interest of the parties, but also the public interest who have a place in the story (see for example 8127/15 The Associate of Israeli Industrialists vs. Dohme Corp and Merck Sharp, 15 June 2016), and in trademark matters,  see also the request to register Israel Trademark No. 164702 LENGO, paragraphs 6-9 and the references there.

This is true for main trademark proceedings, such as registration of a mark in the trademark register, but it is also true for temporary injunctions. Just as it is important to consider the public in the main rulings, it is also important to consider them when considering issuing temporary injunctions since temporary injunctions are designed to serve the main ruling. The extent that NOT granting a temporary injunction would lead to the public being misled should be considered when considering temporary injunctions.

It will be noted that the first point emphasized the commonality of civil law including trademarks, whereas the second point emphasized the uniqueness of trademarks. This is not contradictory. Just as one has to consider the likelihood of a proceeding being successful in prevailing with regard to a specific law, one has to consider the uniqueness of trademark law where the specific law is the Trademark Ordinance. The difference is that one also has to relate to the third wheel – the public. This is the commonality with Administrative Law, although the public interest is different in the two areas. Whereas trademark Law is still personal law, in this regard it is on the seam between personal private law and public law.

In this instance, the existence of two entities transmitting Evangelical Christian messages under the same trademark, where one body publicises itself as related to the other body before the same target group, is likely to mislead the English listening demographic. This has an independent weight in both the considerations of public interest and in the balance of convenience. The risk is not that the listening public will be confused, as the transmission languages are different. The risk is in the advertisements in English. In these circumstances, it is fitting to not allow the appeal apart from with regards to one point.

That is to say, that the District Court was correct to refuse to grant a temporary injunction to the extent that it would be inappropriate to interfere, due to the large investment, the different target audience and language and the delay – even if it resulted from a lack of clarity regarding the defendants’ intentions following exchanges of letters and it is not clear if there was tardiness, or if the plaintiff thought things were resolvable without going to court, but the findings of the Court of First Instance were reasonable.

Together with this, the Court of First Instance was wrong with regard to the request to remove advertisements that create an association between the defendants and the plaintiff. The defendants are required to remove all references to the historic Voice of Hope channel belonging to the Appellant, and similarly to cease and desist from any publication that implies a connection between the parties. Alternatively, the defendants are allowed to leave the advertisements in place, but to add a clear and unequivocal clarification that they are not related to the English Voice of Hope, so that advertisers will not be misled. If the parties are not happy with this, they are invited to raise their claims with the Court of First Instance, but it appears that the parties can settle this between themselves without referring back to the courts.

In Judge Hendel’s opinion, this is the correct balance between the plaintiff, the defendants and the public. The defendants can continue broadcasting in Arabic under the name Voice of Hope to the residents of Lebanon and Syria since, in the framework of the request for a temporary injunction, no risk was substantiated that Arabic speakers would be misled regarding a relationship with the plaintiff’s station that closed in 2000, and so there is no risk of damaging that station. This considers the target audience of the radio station, and the minor differences in the marks, See Nazareth Civil Action 613/95 Arditi Americano vs. Harush, paragraph 6 (17 March 1996), and also considering that no evidence was produced to substantiate the claim that the mark was well known amongst Arabic speakers. As to English speakers, only the plaintiff transmits in English, and the defendants admit that their usage of English is only for written advertising purposes. Thus there is no likelihood of confusion regarding the transmissions themselves, but only with regard to the advertisements and these are mitigated by the steps ruled above.

Domino's pizzaPizza Domino

Such intermediate rulings are possible in trademark case which can result in two similar marks coexisting where there is a ruling that creates a difference that mitigates the likelihood of confusion, such as with regards to Israel TM no 6140 Domino Pizza which then Commissioner Michael Ophir Z”L allowed to coexist with Pizza Domino, in light of the different colour schemes, signage and newspaper articles stressing the lack of connection between the two chains. This is not a common occurrence, but it is fitting in a temporary injunction, as it balances the three interests, including that of the consumers.

All of the above only relates to the temporary injunction. It does not nail down the final ruling. The parties disagree regarding many factual matters, such as whether the plaintiff has a reputation, and the extent of that reputation, how well the Voice of Hope is known around the world and so on. Although these issues are considered with respect to whether a temporary injunction is appropriate, this in no way decides the trademark issue or nails down the main ruling, but merely attempts to minimize damage to both sides before the full ruling issues. See Appeal 4196/93 Shefa Bar Management and Services 1991 led.vs Shefa Restaurants Production and Marketing of Prepared Meals 1984 Ltd. p.d. 47(5) 165 (1993). The appropriate temporary injunction and the appropriate main ruling have different considerations. The Court’s main consideration with respect to temporary injunctions is to enable the main proceeding to take place without creating irreversible damages, whilst noting that the apparent facts and working hypotheses are liable to change, as is the perceived public interest, throughout the case, and the Court will have to make a final ruling in due course.

The Appeal for a temporary injunction is partially accepted and the costs awarded against the plaintiff by the Court of First Interest are cancelled. The defendants will bear the plaintiff’s costs and legal expenses of 18000 Shekels.

High Adventure Ministries vs. Strategic Group and the Voice of Hope LTD; ruling on interim injunction by Judge Hendel 7 May 2018.

COMMENT

2567555-David-Ben-Gurion-Quote-The-test-of-democracy-is-freedom-ofI think this ruling is balanced. It is in stark contrast to the en banc decision in the Bagatz ruling on the legality of the lex-specialis Arutz Sheva where the Supreme Court overturned a Law that legalized the station, basing themselves on the spurious argument that allowing the station would interfere with other stations being able to attract advertising revenue, alleged to be a fundamental right under the quasi-constitutional Basic Law – Freedom of Occupation, whilst ignoring the fact that the appellants acted in bad faith (Yossi Sarid was simultaneously campaigning for Abu Nathan to get the Nobel Peace Prize for the Voice of Peace),  and with no mention of the other quasi-constitutional right, that of Freedom of Speech, defended successfully by Judge Agranat in 73/53 Bagatz Kol HaAm vs. Ministry of Interior, 1953 where Ben Gurion’s attempt to silence a communist newspaper was thwarted well before the ‘legal revolution’. Aharon Barak creatively misinterpreted the basic Laws of 1991 to give the courts unprecedented and anti-democratic powers to overthrow Knesset legislation and widened the definition of legal standing to allow the courts to intervene at the request of legislators, non-profits and others.
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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


Shuka – A Trademark Parody

April 22, 2018

Shoka 1Shuka is a fictitious insurance broker used in a long running and highly effective, humorous series of advertisements by IDI, an insurance company offering direct insurance services over the phone by dialing 9,000,000.

I

IDI is an insurance company. They applied for Israel Trademark No. 264302 for the word שוקה (Shuka) covering financial transactions, insurance and life insurance in class 36 on 2 April 2014. The mark was allowed on 16 July 2015.

The Association of Insurance Agents in Israel, which is a non-profit organization representing thousands of licensed insurance brokers, opposed the mark on 11 August 2015, alleging that it was misleading and its registration was contrary to Section 11(6) of the Trademark Ordinance 1972. The grounds of the Opposition were that the Applicants gave the impression that they were licensed insurance brokers and this is not the case.

Shoka 2There was a proceeding between the parties in the Tel Aviv District Court (28223-03-12) in which the Opposer requested that the court issue an injunction against the Applicant to stop their advertising which was alleged to be insulting slander and misleading, and created unjust competition. The District Court partially accepted the Opposer’s claims and forbade the Applicant from using the advertising campaign clips and radio advertisements and various other advertisements.

Shoka 4

On appeal to the Supreme Court, this decision was overturned. In Civil Appeal 3322/16 and 4313/16 IDI Insurance ltd vs. The Association of Insurance Agents in Israel, 30 April 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the advertisements did not create a tort and the appropriate grounds for the complaint was the Libel and Slander Act. However Section 54 of the Act relates to any community that is not a company, and so the civil case was inappropriate. The Court stated this in Section 31 of the ruling:

However, in this instance we are dealing with humorous advertisements wherein insurance brokers are indirectly represented in jest and parody that is so exaggerated that it is clear that the reasonable viewer will consider the claims accordingly. That as may be, one cannot state that, following the advertisements, a reasonable person would consider that the characteristics ascribed to Shuka in the advertisements, hedonistic, archaic, etc) apply to specific insurance brokers, and there isn’t even a hint of this.

The Supreme Court also ruled that the advertisements were not an insulting description, since the viewer would not consider the advertisements as information imparted to him seriously due to the dominant humorous elements of the advertisements (paragraph 64 of the advertisement.

The Association of Insurance Agents in Israel requested reconsideration.

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Wok and Walk

April 20, 2018

wokRo.R. Sheli ltd own Israel Trademark No. 233836 for “wok and walk

The mark owner has tried to have some sections of the request for cancellation struck from the record. Sections 18 -22 claim that the registration was in bad faith and so the trademarks should be cancelled under Section 39(a1) of the ordinance 1972. According to the mark owner, it appears that in an Affidavit by Rami Lev opposing expedited examination and registration of TM Application no. 291833, it is claimed that the franchise started trading in 2004. However the owner of the mark in question registered their mark back in 2000. So the trademark owner claims that there is no grounds to accuse them of acting in bad faith since their use of the mark preceded that of the party requesting cancellation.

wok to walk

Wok to Walk Franchise oppose this request and claims that now is not the time to relate to this claim and to do so at this stage is not in accordance with the civil procedure.  Deputy Commissioner Ms Jacqueline Bracha concurs with Wok to Walk Franchise.

In civil proceedings, the right to cancellation of baseless claims is anchored in regulation 100 of the Civil Procedure Regulations 1984. The Patent Office can rely on this, see cancellation rulings regarding TM Nos. 192398, 193299, 301639, 201641, 201645, 201642, 193947, 193948 HaIr Halvanah LTD. (White City LTD vs. Biyanei HaIr HaLevanah Achzackot LTD10 November 2009.

The case law states that:

The test for whether  or not there is a basis for suing  on these grounds is whether “the plaintiff, on the assumption that the factual basis for the claim is proven, is entitled to receive the requested sanction (Civil Appeal 109//49 Engineering and Industry Company vs. Mizrach Insurance Services, p.d. 5, 1585, 1591 (1951). Cancellations of Statements of Case on the basis of lack of case should be allowed only in cases where were the plaintiff to successfully prove all the significant facts of the case, they would still not be entitled to a ruling since the statement of case does not include a legal basis for the claim that obliges the other party   (Yoel Zusman “Civil Procedure 384-385, 7th Edition, edited by Shlomo Levine, 1995). The purpose of this regulation is to prevent purposeless hearings and expenses in unnecessary human resources considering pointless claims.

In this case, the request for cancellation and the sections to be cancelled are concerned with a bad faith allegation due to the mark owner knowing about the competing mark, and registered it to prevent the franchise going international. The franchise argue that
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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.   

 

 


Palestinian Autonomy Adopts Nice Classification

January 30, 2018

70px-Coat_of_arms_of_Palestine_(alternative).svg.pngRAMALLAH – The Ministry of National Economy of the Palestinian Autonomy has adopted the 10th Edition of the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks under the Nice Agreement (Nice Classification).

From 1 January 2018 applicants may submit trademark applications for registration designating items from this edition.