Restaurant chain Wagamama has been successful in stopping the registration of a rival trademark after the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) ruled against the application from Cable Logic Europe.
Cable Logic Europe had applied to register the trademark ‘Wakayama’ for prepared meals, instant meals and other food products featuring noodles made of rice and wheat.
In their case against the registration, Wagamama claimed that the trademark in question was visually similar to their own and sounded almost identical. They argued that the products and services offered were similar to Wagamama’s, which would probably cause confusion among consumers who would mistake the products for being Wagamama’s.
The Japanese style chain also highlighted the unfair advantage that Wakayama would gain from the far-reaching reputation of the popular restaurant chain and would benefit from the marketing of the Wagamama brand. There was a risk that this could potentially alter the economic behaviour of consumers if they chose Wakayama’s goods instead of Wagamama’s services.
Furthermore, Wagamama maintained that any negative press received by Wakayama could potentially damage Wagamama’s reputation.
In a counterstatement filed in response, Cable Logic denied all of Wagamama’s grounds of opposition. Additionally, the company stated that “if pronounced clearly by a reasonable person, Wakayama does not sound the same as Wagamama”.
The IPO did not agree, however. In her decision, Heather Harrison representing the IPO stated that the two marks were aurally alike to a high degree. She noted that the first and last syllables were identical, while the second and third syllables differed in the consonant sound (GA; KA) but shared the same vowel sound.
The IPO declared that the similarity of the goods offered by both Wagamama and Wakayama would mean a likelihood of confusion amongst customers. The IPO stated that the average consumer rarely has the opportunity to make direct comparisons between trademarks and must instead rely upon the imperfect picture of them which he has retained in his mind.
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