Friday, June 08, 2007

Finding Wine-Imbibing Consumers More Susceptible to Confusion, TTAB Deems "SAURUS" and "LAURUS" Confusingly Similar

"In vino veritas," it has been said. How about "in vino conturbo"? The Board thought so in its decision sustaining an opposition to registration of the mark SAURUS for wine, distilled spirits, and other alcoholic beverages. It found that mark likely to cause confusion with the registered mark LAURUS for wine. Gabriel Meffre v. Maria y Adelina S.A., Opposition No. 91164878 (June 1, 2007) [not precedential).

Applicant submitted no evidence and did not file a brief, so one could say that it had little to "wine" about. The goods overlapped and the channels of trade were presumed to be the same.

As to the conditions of sale, Opposer made the "interesting argument that imbibing customers may have even less ability than the general consuming public at large to make distinctions between or among such similar marks." According to Opposer, "the conditions under which sales are made are in fact ripe to create consumer confusion given the strong similarity between the marks." The Board agreed.

Turning to the marks, the Board observed once again that when marks would appear on virtually identical goods, the degree of similarity necessary to support a likelihood of confusion is decreased." It agreed with Opposer that "there is a great similarity in sound." "The fact that the leading letter will inevitably result in a perceptible aural difference is simply not enough for us to find that the marks are sufficiently dissimilar in sound to overcome a likelihood of confusion."

As to meaning, Opposer contended that LAURUS has no meaning in relation to the goods. In its answer, Applicant asserted that LAURUS means "triumph" in Latin and in English refers to a plant, whereas SAURUS come from the Latin and "refers to animals of the family of dinosaur." However, Applicant presented no supporting evidence and so the Board found that, as to connotation and commercial impression, both marks are arbitrary terms as applied to wine and other alcoholic beverages.
The Board therefore concluded that, despite the difference in the leading letters, the two marks are "highly similar" in appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression.

Considering the relevant du Pont factors, the Board found confusion likely and it sustained the opposition.

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2007.


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