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Monday, July 1, 2013

USPTO Finds Trademark CHAMPARTY Not Confusingly Similar to CHAMPAGNE Appellation

Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Chamagne (CIVC) and Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualite (INAO) who under French law are charged with controlling, promoting and protecting the common law certification mark CHAMPAGNE, opposed the registration of the mark CHAMPARTY for "alcoholic beverages except beers."  CIVC/INAO argued that the marks CHAMPAGNE and CHAMPARTY are confusingly similar.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Board) found the parties goods to be identical.  While normally this factor alone would weigh heavily in favor of finding a likelihood of confusion, the Board found the marks CHAMPARTY and CHAMPAGNE dissimilar.  The Board stated that "customers of average perceptual abilities would not mistake one mark for the other or find the marks to be significantly similar" even if used on identical goods. 

CIVC/INAO argued that CHAMPAGNE is often associated with celebrations and thus PARTY might suggest a connection with CHAMPAGNE especially given that the initial letters are identical in both marks.  The Board was not persuaded as CHAMPAGNE is a term well known as a type of sparking wine, but CHAMPARTY has no literal meaning.  In fact, the Board noted that the English word "party" is a prominent feature of the CHAMPARTY mark and that the PARTY portion of the mark is "likely to counteract the visual similarities between the two marks in the perception of the consumers."  Unfortunately for CIVC/INAO, there was no evidence of record that CHAMPAGNE is more closely connected with celebrations than that of any other alcoholic beverage.  Similarly, the Board saw no support for the argument that consumers would view CHAMPARTY as a kind of "brand extension" of the CHAMPAGNE mark nor did not discern any other rationale why consumers might perceive a relationship or connection between the marks.

The Board concluded that the mark CHAMPARTY differs substantially from the mark CHAMPAGNE, "so as not to be likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to the source of applicant's goods."  Alas, CIVC/INAO has the CHAMPAGNE, but nothing to celebrate. 

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For any questions or assistance on trademark matters contact Katja Loeffelholz at kl@dpf-law.com.

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