No likelihood of confusion between MARIFLEX and MARLEX

European Union

In Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP v Maris Polymers AE (Case C-528/2008, November 28 2008), the Second Board of Appeal of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) has held that there was no likelihood of confusion between the marks MARIFLEX and MARLEX.

Greek company Maris Polymers Aanonymi Etaireia Paragogis Systimaton Polyourethanis, trading as Maris Polymers AE filed an application for the registration of the mark MARIFLEX as a Community trademark (CTM) for “chemical products for use in constructions” in Class 1 of the Nice Classification.
US company Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LP filed an opposition against the application based on 14 earlier CTM and national registrations for the trademark MARLEX for goods in Class 1. The Opposition Division of OHIM dismissed the opposition and Chevron appealed.
Chevron asserted that MARIFLEX was confusingly similar to MARLEX, as the only difference between the two marks was the addition of the syllable ‘IF’. In addition, Chevron claimed that this difference was minimal and was thus incapable of preventing a likelihood of confusion, especially in light of the fact that the goods covered by both marks were identical.
In its defence, Maris Polymers submitted that there was a clear difference between the two marks from a visual and phonetic point of view. In particular, Maris Polymers argued that:
  • MARLEX consists of two syllables, while MARIFLEX consists of three; and
  • the overall pronunciation of the marks was substantially affected by the addition of the syllable ‘IF’ in the MARIFLEX mark.
In addition, Maris Polymers contended that the risk of confusion was limited because the goods at issue target professionals. Moreover, the specification of the respective goods was not identical (one being general and the other more specific).  
Examining the MARIFLEX mark, the Board of Appeal held that the mark consisted of two parts (‘mari’ and ‘flex’). The board concluded that the relevant public was likely to perceive the ‘flex’ component as the abbreviation of the word ‘flexibility’ - especially as ‘flex’ describes a characteristic of the goods covered, which include “artificial and synthetic resins (unprocessed) that are elastic or flexible”. Therefore, the distinctive and dominant part of the trademark was found to be ‘mari’, which had a direct link with the trading name of Maris Polymers.
In light of the above, the board concluded that there was no likelihood of confusion between the marks and dismissed Chevron’s appeal.  
Eleni Lappa, Dr Helen Papaconstantinou, John Filias & Associates, Athens

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