General Motors lost a trademark dispute over its trademark HUMMER


Masaki MIKAMI reports another interesting trademark case from Japan focusing our attention on the famous Hummer SUV. The dispute concerns the following trademark application filed in Japan in 2021 for class12 – bicycles and class 22 – tents:

Against this application, an opposition was initiated by the US car manufacturer General Motors LLC on the ground of its earlier mark HUMMER in classes 6,9,12,13,22.

The company considered both signs similar enough to cause consumer confusion, especially taking into consideration the popularity and reputation of the earlier mark.

The Japan Patent Office, however, dismissed the claim for the existing reputation of the US company’s mark amongst the consumers in Japan. The reason was the fact that these SUVs had been selling in the country but in 2010 their production was suspended. There was no solid evidence for continuous sales, market shares, advertisements, etc., that could suggest clearly that the mark had an established reputation in the country.

When it comes to the signs themselves, the Office found them dissimilar from visual and phonetic points of view. Conceptually both marks have no specific meaning for Japanese consumers at all. According to the Office, the first part of the mark applied for HEAVYDUTY, which has no meaning for the consumers, was distinctive enough in order to make the difference between the signs. This in conjunction with the graphic elements was enough to overcome the similarity between the marks.