Mary Poppins can be a trademark not related to Disney?

One interesting dispute from Japan that focuses on the relation between films titles, famous characters and registered trademarks.

The Japanese company Mary Poppins Inc., which provides babysitting services, registered successfully in 2014 a word mark for MARY POPPINS in class 45.

Everything had been cloudless until 2019 when Disney intervened filing an application for invalidation. The grounds were that the mark in question takes unfair advantages from the well-known and famous movie “Mary Poppins” and its main character. In that way the mark could be associated with Disney as a company. What’s more this could be against public order or morality, and  could cause confusion with Disney’s well-known goods or services and its famous earlier trademarks.

The Patent Office, however, disagreed with these claims. Although the Office acknowledged the presence of reputation and popularity of the film and character “Mary Poppins”, it concluded that there is no violation of the trademark law.

The fact that Disney has used “Mary Poppins” for merchandising products in its stores does not show clearly that this use was as a source of trade origin. That is to say “Mary Poppins” wasn’t use as a brand for particular products or services but only in connection with the name and character from the movie. From that point of view, the Office concluded that there was unlikely consumers in the country to associate the registered mark with Disney as a company.

Source: Masaki MIKAMI, Mark IP Law.