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lundi 27 avril 2015

The Words « Lingerie » and « Secret » Go Hand in Hand

By Sarah D. Pinsonnault

In Eclectic Edge Inc. v. Victoria's Secret Stores Brand Management, Inc., 2015 FC 453, the Federal Court had to decide whether, inter alia, there was a risk of confusion between the Applicant’s “Valentine Secret” Word Mark, Design Mark and Lingerie Mark and those of the Respondent, “Victoria’s Secret”.

Although the Registrar of Trade Marks answered “yes” to that question, the Federal Court however thought otherwise. In citing the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision Kellogg Salada Canada Inc. v. Canada (Registrar of Trade Marks), [1992] FCJ No 562, it found that just like the word “Nutri” which is commonly used in trade-marks in the food trade industry, so is the word “Secret” in the lingerie marketplace:

“[80] The problem with the Respondent’s position, and that of the Trademarks Office [TMO] on likelihood of confusion, is that they ignore a number of fundamental legal issues and facts as presented in this case […]

b. The new evidence shows that the use of SECRET is relatively common place in Canada by third parties in association with lingerie, women’s clothing and women’s undergarments […]

[81] As stated by the Federal Court of Appeal in Kellogg Salada Canada Inc. c Canada (Registrar of Trade Marks), [1992] FCJ No 562 at pages 358-360 (FCA) (Kellogg):

[…]

…In Fox, The Canadian Law of Trade Marks and Unfair Competition, (3rd ed.), Toronto, 1972, at page 351, the learned editors stated:

[…] In considering the possibility of confusion between any two trade marks, it is a well recognized principle that, where those two marks contain a common element that is also contained in a number of other marks in use in the same market, such a common occurrence in the market tends to cause purchasers to pay more attention to the other or non-common features of the respective marks and to distinguish between them by those other features […]

The evidence does show that the word "Nutri", as a prefix or otherwise, has been generally adopted and used in the food trade in Canada […] I agree with counsel's submission that it is reasonable from all of this evidence to conclude that the word "Nutri" has been commonly adopted in the food trade as suggestive of a desirable attribute of foods, particularly health foods. I think it may be inferred that consumers of these products are accustomed to making fine distinctions between the various "Nutri" trade marks in the marketplace, by paying more attention to any small differences between marks […]”

With that in mind, the Federal Court reaffirmed that when two trademarks share a common element that is also widely used in the same market, there is less of a likelihood of confusion given that consumers will tend to pay more attention to the non-common features of the marks. Accordingly, on this ground of appeal, the Federal Court concluded as follows:

“[83] Given the differences in appearance and sound between the VICTORIA’S SECRET mark and the Respondent’s VALENTINE SECRET Word Mark, Design Mark and Lingerie Mark, and notwithstanding the ideas suggested by the marks in issue, which somewhat favor the Respondent, I find there is no likelihood of confusion.”

To read this decision in its entirety, click here.

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