One interesting trademark case has been solved by the England and Wales High Court recently.
In 2019, Unilever filed a trademark application for WONDER MUM in class 3 – soaps; perfumery; essential oils; deodorants and antiperspirants; hair care products, etc.
Against this application, an opposition was filed in 2020 by DC Comics, based on an earlier European trademark for WONDER WOMAN in class 16. An acquired reputation for the mark was claimed too.
The opposition was dismissed by the UK Patent Office, which decision was upheld by the Court.
According to the Office, both signs were not confusingly similar. There was only a law degree of conceptual similarity that was not enough to cause confusion in the consumer’s mind.
The evidence for trademark reputation was identified as insufficient. The general statement by DC that WONDER WOMAN is one of the most popular comics characters is not enough in order for a conclusion for the acquired reputation on the territory of the UK to be made.
The data for global sales related to WONDER WOMAN do not show what percentage of them are related to the UK alone.
Another significant problem is the fact that there is no clear evidence that UK consumers perceive WONDER WOMAN specifically as a trademark and not as a title of a movie or a name of a popular character.
This is important because trademark protection cover only signs able to indicate the commercial origin of particular goods and services.
The fact that many people know WONDER WOMAN as a comics character does not mean that they perceive the name as a trademark sign.
The claim for passing off was dismissed as not well-established.
This case shows once again how difficult is trademarks for popular characters to be enforced in reality. Such trademarks have to be used in their role of signs showing trade origin not relying only on their popularity as artistic works.