This spring the General Court of the EU issued an intriguing decision on the case Case T-15/17 where a European trademark application for YAMAS for alcoholic drinks was successfully opposed by an earlier mark LLAMA for the same goods.
The EUIPO upheld the opposition concluding that although there is only a low visual similarity between the signs at hand and no conceptual such, they are confusingly similar due to the high level of phonetic similarity in particular for the Spanish speaking consumers in the EU. The reasons behind it were based on the nature of the goods. When a consumer orders such drinks, this happens in noisy restaurants, clubs etc, which requires only oral ordering. Most of the time the consumer even doesn’t see the branded goods.
From that point of view, phonetic similarity has a predominant role in the assessment process and can lead to a consumer confusion.
The Court upheld this decision.