FOR not confusingly similar to FORD
In Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited v Ratapipat (Case 1899/2548, July 11 2005), the Intellectual Property and International Trade (IP&IT) Court has upheld a decision that found that the marks FOR and FORD are neither identical nor similar.
Yingson Ratapipat filed an application to register the word mark FOR for air and oil filters in Class 7 of the Nice Classification. Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, the registered owner in Thailand of FORD as both a word and device mark, filed an opposition against Ratapipat's application on the grounds that the latter had made the application in bad faith for goods similar to those to which the FORD marks apply, with the intention to confuse the public into believing that his goods were Ford's goods. The trademark registrar rejected the opposition. Ford appealed to the Trademark Committee, which upheld the registrar's decision. Ford then appealed to the IP&IT Court, which affirmed the committee's decision.
First, the court found that the marks differ visually in the number of letters they each contain: the FORD marks consist of four letters while Ratapipat's mark consists of three. Second, the court held that even though the first three letters of both marks are identical and arranged in the same sequence, this did not necessarily mean that Ratapipat had tried to register a mark that was similar or identical to the FORD marks in order to confuse the public. Moreover, the court held that the additional letter ('d') at the end of the FORD marks would be sufficient to enable the public to differentiate between the marks visually.
Lastly, the court held that the marks are also aurally and conceptually different: FOR means 'having the purpose of' while FORD (in which the final 'd' is pronounced, which makes it aurally different from FOR) is the name of a pioneer of the automotive industry.
Accordingly, the court concluded that FOR and FORD are neither identical nor similar. It denied that FOR would cause any confusion to the public regarding the owner or origin of the goods.
Chalinee Panthuvichien, Johnson Stokes & Master, Bangkok
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