12 August 2019TrademarksSarah Morgan

UKIPO allows Asahi ‘snow’ beer TM despite Chinese brewery opposition

Japanese beer company Asahi has secured the registration of a ‘Snow Globe’ trademark in the UK, after fending off opposition from the China-based brewer of Snow beer.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) dismissed China Resources Snow Brewery’s opposition to ‘Snow Globe’ on Thursday, August 8, finding that the Asahi’s trademark should proceed to registration.

Pub company Fuller’s, which was acquired by Asahi earlier this year, applied to register ‘Snow Globe’ as a trademark for “beer, ale, lager, stout and porter; non-alcoholic beers” in February 2018.

‘Snow Globe’ was chosen as the name of a seasonal beer to be brewed and consumed during the winter months, according to an evidence statement submitted by Fuller’s company secretary.

China Resources, which is the maker of the Snow, the world’s most popular beer, soon opposed Asahi’s trademark application. In December 2017, China Resources entered into an agreement with Molson Coors (a multinational brewing company) granting it exclusive rights to distribute Snow beer to the UK market.

In its opposition, China Resources cited six marks, including a European trademark for the word ‘Snow’, covering beers, and claimed that the respective goods and services are identical or similar and the marks are similar.

Asahi responded by filing a defence and counterstatement, requesting that China Resources provide proof of use for three of its marks.

“The mere fact that a number of trademarks relating to beer contain the word Snow, is not enough to establish that the distinctive character of that element has been weakened because of its frequent use in the field. The evidence submitted by the applicant does not confirm one way or the other that,” said the IPO.

Leisa Davies, on behalf of the IPO, concluded that China Resources could rely on its second and third marks, as they are both UK registered.

However, Davies found could not rely on its first mark, because it was an EU trademark and the Chinese company’s case is based solely on its use within the UK.

“Notwithstanding the lack of accounts and actual receipts from third-party retailers, it is clear that the invoices to Molson Coors demonstrate a total of 7,436 units sold with an intended delivery to the UK,” said Davies.

On China Resources’ opposition, Davies concluded that while the goods were identical and/or highly similar, the marks were only conceptually similar to a low degree and shared a medium degree of visual and aural similarity due to the shared presence of the word ‘Snow’.

“Taking all these factors into account I do not consider that the marks will be directly or indirectly confused. Consumers will not see the later mark as a sub-brand or brand extension of the earlier mark nor will they consider that the goods are economically linked to the same undertaking,” said the IPO.

The IPO ordered that Asahi’s trademark application could proceed to registration, subject to appeal, and ordered China Resources to pay Asahi £1,300 ($1,568) as a contribution towards costs.

Christian Finn, director of trademarks at Murgitroyd and representative of Asahi, said: “We are pleased with the decision of the hearing officer in this matter, which vindicates our client's position that there is no likelihood of confusion between the two marks.”

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