May 11, 2015
Stability and certainty in judicial decisions – that’s where the rule of law best thrives. The familiar doctrine of stare decisis commands that once a question of law has been examined and decided, it should be deemed settled and closed to further argument. This simply means that a ruling on a certain state of facts established in a final decision of the Philippine Supreme Court has to be followed in subsequent cases by all courts in the land where the facts are substantially the same, regardless of whether the parties and property are the same.
This doctrine, however, disappears in the realm of confusing similarity in trademark disputes. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in the McDonald’s case that confusing similarity is to be resolved only by using the dominancy test because it is explicitly incorporated in Section 155.1 of the Philippine Intellectual Property Code (defining infringement as the “colorable imitation of a registered mark xxx or a dominant feature thereof”). For this reason, the Supreme Court expressly rejected the holistic test, even declaring it as contrary to the elementary postulate of trademark law. Thus, under the dominancy test, confusing similarity is found if one dominant feature is copied, notwithstanding the presence of differentiating words or design. In addition, if the element copied is the first word of the mark, this is deemed sufficient copying of the dominant element.
April 21, 2015
In a public gathering attended by various IP stakeholders, the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center, announced on April 16, 2015 a recently forged cooperation, which gives parties in dispute over IP rights the option to refer their IP disputes to WIPO’s mediation services.
To formalize this cooperation, IPOPHIL and WIPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding back in May 2014. Under the Memorandum, IPOPHIL and WIPO established a joint dispute resolution procedure to facilitate the mediation of IP cases pending before IPOPHIL.
Currently, Office Order No. 154, Series of 2010 requires the following types of disputes lodged before the Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA) to undergo mediation: (1) administrative complaint; (2) inter partes cases; (3) disputes involving technology transfer payments; (4) disputes relating to the terms of a license involving the author’s rights to public performance or other communication of his work; (5) cases appealed to the Office of the Director General (ODG) from decisions of the Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA) and the Documentation, Information and Technology Transfer Bureau (DITTB); and (6) other cases which may be referred to mediation during the settlement period declared by the Director General. These cases are referred to IPOPHIL’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Services (ADRS). The mediation is presided by a mediator, who is jointly appointed by the parties. The idea for ADRS is to provide a forum, where parties can discuss their issues, and work towards reaching an amicable resolution.
April 20, 2015
Bridgestone Corporation emerges victorious once again in another suit against an applicant seeking the registration of a trademark that uses the suffix “STONE” in connection with goods in Class 12.
A Chinese company attempted to register “R-STONE” in the Philippines for use in Class 12. In its opposition, Bridgestone alleged that it was the first to use and register “BRIDGESTONE” in connection with the design, manufacture and technology of tires. It claimed that the ownership and association of the word “STONE” as a distinctive word element of its house mark “BRIDGESTONE” was bolstered by its acquisition in 1998 of Firestone Tire & Rubber Corporation, along with the “FIRESTONE” trademark. In fact, the “BRIDGESTONE” mark has already been declared a well-known mark in view of approximately 500 trademark applications and registrations, as well as approximately 243 domain name registrations, in numerous countries around the world. Bridgestone further pointed out that Applicant’s mark contains the word “STONE”, which has been declared as the dominant element of the “BRIDGESTONE” mark, and the letter “R” is found in both marks.
April 13, 2015
Abbott Laboratories, the company responsible for bringing the nutrition drink ENSURE, which is popular among seniors and the elderly, has suffered a set back in the Philippines in relation to its infant formula bearing the trademark EYE-Q. A local businessman applied for the trademark EYE Q in connection with school and office supplies in Class 16. Abbott opposed the application claiming that it is the first to use and register the trademark EYE-Q in the Philippines in connection with infant formula. Abbott alleged that since the application covers an identical trademark, registration is barred by Sections 123.1(d) to (g) of the IP Code. Abbott further argued that the goods covered by the application are within its natural zone of potential business expansion.
The BLA rejected the opposition convinced that no consumer can possibly be deceived by the Applicant’s trademark and mistakenly purchase the Applicant’s goods while intending to purchase the Abbott’s goods. On appeal, the Director General upheld the dismissal noting that the parties’ trademarks cover different and unrelated goods thereby negating likelihood of confusion. The Director General rejected Abbott’s argument that the Applicant’s goods, i.e. school and office supplies, are within its natural zone of business expansion. It noted that Abbott failed to explain why dealing with office supplies can be considered a normal expansion of its infant formula business.
February 13, 2015
The Philippine Intellectual Property Office (IPOPHIL) announced the names of the most active trademark and patent filers for the year 2014. The rankings were based on data compiled by the IPOPHIL from tracking the number of filings made by law firms during the 2014 calendar year. FEDERIS was ranked second in overall trademark filings, and was listed among the top twenty in patent filings.
The top filers were honored in a luncheon hosted by the Director General on December 15, 2014. The luncheon was attended by government officials and guests and also by representatives of law firms and companies. According to the Director General, data for trademark and patent filings show yearly increase, attesting to the integrity and reliability of the system that the IPOPHIL has placed while under his watch, and affirming great confidence that the filers have in the system. He had only praises and appreciation for those who have placed their trust in the IPOPHIL, and by this, he referred to the law firms for being in the forefront of the IPOPHIL’s strong showing year in and year out. The event was the occasion to thank these lawyers and to recognize among them the most active user of the IP system in the country.
For FEDERIS, the event puts in the spotlight what it has always been in the area of IP practice: an unassuming, quiet firm, but with the fire and dedication of the biggest law firms in the country, and standing head-to-head with them when the statistics come in.
January 31, 2015
FEDERIS and its managing partner, Mila Federis, have been recognized by World Trademark Review (WTR) for inclusion in the 2015 edition of the WTR 1000. In its debut, FEDERIS, as a firm, was praised for its “strong growth and A-list clients”. The publication also recognized the firm’s successes in filing opposition cases on behalf of Yahoo! and Universal City Studios. On the litigation side, the group was acknowledged for successfully representing Philips in a dispute involving trademark infringement and unfair competition claims.
Managing Partner, Mila Federis, who is no stranger to the WTR 1000 rankings, has been praised as a “standout” trademark practitioner and recognized for her “IP nous and international experience”. In the 2015 edition, she was also proclaimed as being the “go-to enforcement lawyer” in the Philippines and applauded for her skill and dedication to IP practice.
According to the publication, the “patronage of such brand-conscious rights holders is a clear indication of the quality of services on offer at Federis & Associates”.
For information on the methodology behind WTR 1000, visit the World Trademark Review’s website.
January 31, 2015
Federis & Associates is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the International Trademark Association’s regional conference entitled Springtime for Trademarks in Japan. The conference will be held on March 26-27, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan.
According to INTA’s website, the conference will be an “intermediate-level educational event, will be conducted in both the Japanese and the English languages, and will be an ideal venue for trademark owners to meet with outside counsel and foreign associates. Attendees will be able to forge new business relationships with other participants from the region and interact with a number of government representatives.”
The conference is a good opportunity to bring together trademark professionals and high-level government officials from all over the world to discuss trademark topics that are important to Japanese brand owners and practitioners, with relevant perspectives provided by experts from the Asia-Pacific region. Participants can learn from experts who will discuss topics of interest to the trademark community, including the latest trademark developments and trends in the ASEAN countries. The firm’s support for this event strengthens its commitment and interest in bringing together experts, policy makers and professionals to engage in dialogue on important trademark issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region, in particular the South East Asia region which comprises the fastest growing economies in the world.
Visit INTA’s website for more information.
January 29, 2015
A local recording and music publishing company in the Philippines attempted to register “UNIVERSAL RECORDS and U Design” for cassette tapes, compact discs, laser discs, digital audiotapes in Class 9. Universal City Studios Inc. (“UCSI”) opposed the application claiming prior rights based on its earlier registration for UNIVERSAL for entertainment services in Class 41, films in Class 9, printed matters in Class 16, clothing in Class 25 and based on the international fame of its UNIVERSAL trademark. UCSI is part of the Universal group, the giant worldwide entertainment company whose businesses extend to movie, television, music, theme parks and a host of other entertainment products.
The applicant countered that its use of UNIVERSAL RECORDS on music albums will not create any confusion or deception among relevant consumers, arguing that its music albums are not related to UCSI’s motion pictures and films. UCSI pointed out, however, that music-making has been part of its long business history where its trademark UNIVERSAL has been consistently used until today and in tandem with its film production. UCSI maintained that music and film are closely related even while it presented proof to support its claim that its UNIVERSAL trademark is internationally famous and therefore enjoys expanded protection even for unrelated goods and services. UCSI also presented evidence showing that applicant was using UNIVERSAL RECORDS and U Design in bad faith.
January 26, 2015
The “Runbird” logo is a recognizable symbol, which identifies Japanese-based Mizuno Corporation and its sportswear products. This free-flowing, graphic symbol has been compared to other famous logos of leading sportswear companies, such as the three stripes of Adidas and the unmistakable swoosh of industry giant Nike. It is therefore not surprising that Mizuno aggressively protects its “Runbird” logo worldwide.
In the Philippines, Mizuno opposed the application for “ERKE & DEVICE” owned by Fujian Hongxing Erke Sports Goods Co., Ltd. Mizuno contends that the device portion of Fujian’s mark is confusingly similar to its “Runbird” logo. The Bureau of Legal Affairs (BLA) dismissed the opposition and ruled that the device in Fujian’s mark is not identical to the “Runbird” logo in Mizuno’s mark. The BLA pointed out that there are observable differences in the angles, slants and curves, specifically noting the presence of a triangular-shaped hole in the lower middle portion of Mizuno’s device, which is absent in Fujian’s mark. The BLA further explained that Fujian’s mark is a composite mark consisting of a device and the word “ERKE”. Neither the device nor the word “ERKE” is the dominant feature of Fujian’s mark. Instead, the device and “ERKE” complement each other to form a mark with a character that is distinct from Mizuno’s mark. The BLA also noted that even assuming arguendo that there are similarities between the device portions of the parties’ marks, the addition of the word “ERKE” in Fujian’s mark made consumer confusion unlikely.
By: Mila Federis
November 10, 2014
A recent decision of the Philippine Bureau of Legal Affairs (“BLA”) tackled the issue of distinctiveness in designations for pharmaceutical products. In Westmont Pharmaceutical, Inc. vs. Platinum Pharmaceuticals (PVT), Ltd. (IPC No. 14-2011-00153), 22 September 2014, the applicant attempted to register “OMEZOLE” as a trademark for “pharmaceutical preparations for the treatment of duodenal ulcer, gastric ulcer, gastro-esophageal reflex disease (gerd) and management of zollinger Ellison syndrome”. The application was opposed on grounds that OMEZOLE is confusingly similar to opponent’s registered trademark OMEPRON, which is also used in connection with “pharmaceutical preparations for the treatment of ulcer and gastritis”. Opponent further alleged that OMEZOLE resembles the generic name OMEPRAZOLE, a pharmaceutical drug used as proton pump inhibitor, and as such, registration is not permitted under Sections 123.1 (j) and 123.a(I) for being generic or descriptive.