ESPOLON V. EIDOLON Likelihood of Confusion Case

In a 2020 non-precedential case, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed a §2(d) claim of likelihood of confusion for the Applicants’, Grant Toland, Alexander Prenta and Russ Bennett,  mark EIDOLON for “spirits, excluding distilled blue agave liquor and mezcal; wine,” in International Class 33 and “beer” in International Class 32 and found it not likely to be confused with the Opposer’s, Campari Mexico, S.A. de C.V., mark ESPOLON for “alcoholic beverages except beer,” in International Class 33.

The Board began its likelihood of confusion analysis of the marks in regard to the goods in both Int. Class 33 and Int. Class 32 by stating that two key factors of any §2(d) case are the similarities between the marks and the similarities between the goods or services offered under the marks. “The fundamental inquiry mandated by § 2(d) goes to the cumulative effect of differences in the essential characteristics of the goods and differences in the marks.” See Federated Foods, Inc. v. Fort Howard Paper Co., 544 F.2d 1098, 192 USPQ 24, 29 (CCPA 1976).

Starting with the first du Pont factor, the similarity or dissimilarity  of the marks in their entireties in terms of appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression, the Board looked at the Opposer’s mark ESPOLON and the Applicants’ mark EIDOLON in standard characters and found the following: (1) both marks consist of seven letters, (2) both marks begin with the letter “E” and (3) both marks end with the letters “OLON.” Aside from the first three letters, “ESP” and “EID,” of each mark, it decided that the marks were similar in structure, as both were three syllables, started with the same letter and the last four letters were identical. As to sound, the Board found that while the final syllable was almost identical in sound when spoken, the first two were somewhat different. However, in citing In re Teradata Corp., 223 USPQ 361, 362 (TTAB 1984), the Board stated that there was no “correct” pronunciation for a trademark, and that “consumers may not pronounce either mark as intended, even if they recognize it as a known word.” Moving its attention to the meaning of the marks, the Opposer’s mark ESPOLON is a Spanish word that is not available in English-language dictionaries and translates to “spur,” which is defined as a “pointed, rigid growth on the inner leg of a rooster.” The Applicants’ mark EIDOLON is a word of Greek origin that does appear in English-language dictionaries and means, “an image or representation of an idea; an idealized person or thing; a specter, phantom, ghost, or elusive entity.” The Applicants and the Opposer were in agreeance that the “marks are not English word[s] and are therefore not immediately likely to be translated in the minds of English speakers.” The Board was also in agreement and found that there was no certainty as to whether relevant consumers would recognize the terms comprising the marks as words or coined terms. Ultimately, the Board concluded that the marks were “more similar than dissimilar in appearance and sound, somewhat different in connotation and, overall, convey commercial impressions that are more similar than dissimilar.” Therefore, the first du Pont factor favored a finding of likelihood of confusion.

The Board then looked at the second and third du Pont factors, the nature and similarity or dissimilarity of the goods, the likely-to-continue trade channels and the class of purchasers. Turning first to the second du Pont factor, it looked at the Applicants’ applied for goods in Int. Class 33, which were “spirits, excluding distilled blue agave liquor and mezcal; wine,” and found the goods to be legally identical to the Opposer’s listed goods which were “alcoholic beverages except beer,” in the same Class. With regard to the Applicant’s goods listed under Int. Class 32, specifically “beer,” the Board was not concerned that Opposer’s goods explicitly excluded beer. It stated that in order to support a finding of likelihood of confusion, it was not necessary that the goods were identical or even competitive. Further, it said, “the goods need only be ‘related in some manner or … the circumstances surrounding their marketing are such that they could give rise to the mistaken belief that they emanate from the same source.’” Citing Coach Servs., 101 USPQ2d at 1722 (quoting 7-Eleven Inc. v. Wechsler, 83 USPQ2d 1715, 1724 (TTAB 2007)); See Anheuser-Busch, LLC, 115 USPQ2d at 1827. In its argument, the Opposer submitted evidence showing multiple retailers that offered the distribution and delivery of both beer and liquor, moreover, posts on the Applicants’ discussed the creation of various alcoholic beverages and explained that the same ingredients could be used to make wine, spirits and beer. Further evidence was submitted showing several beverages which included both spirits and beer. However, the Board was not convinced of relatedness of the goods and concluded: “The evidentiary showing in this case falls somewhat short of establishing that consumers are likely to believe that beer and other alcoholic beverages emanate from a common source.” In a similar manner, the Board found the Opposer failed to establish that the Applicants’ Class 32 goods were similar to its applied-for goods, given that both parties’ Class 33 goods were legally identical. Briefly looking at the third du Pont factor, the Board concluded that since the parties Class 33 goods were legally identical, it was fair to presume that the channels of trade would be the same as well. “Where there are legally identical goods, the channels of trade and classes of purchasers are considered to be the same.” See In re Yawata Iron & Steel Co., 403 F.2d 752, 159 USPQ 721, 723 (CCPA 1968).  Therefore, in terms of the Int. Class 33 goods, the above du Pont factors supported a finding of likelihood of confusion yet did not support a finding of likelihood of confusion for the Int. Class 32 goods.

Finally, the Board look at the strength of the Opposer’s mark and found it to be arbitrary and inherently distinctive. Looking at the fifth du Pont factor, the commercial strength of the mark, the Board found that the Opposer had found, “some commercial success and media recognition for its goods under the ESPOLON mark.” It concluded that ESPOLON was a strong mark for alcoholic beverages and therefore was entitled to a broad scope of protection on the spectrum of “very strong to very weak.” In citing Joseph Phelps, 122 USPQ2d at 1734. So, the fifth du Pont factor favored a finding of likelihood of confusion.

The Board then came to its decision in regard to the likelihood of confusion of the Opposer’s mark ESPOLON and the Applicants’ mark EIDOLON for the goods in both Int. Class 33 and Int. Class 32. Starting with Class 33, it concluded that given the similarity of the two marks, and the goods’ presumed identical trade channels and relevant purchasers, the Applicants’ applied-for mark, in connection with the Applicants’ recited Class 33 goods, was likely to cause confusion with the Opposer’s previously used and registered mark ESPOLON, which was entitled to a broad scope of protection, given its inherent and commercial strength. So, the Board sustained the §2(d) opposition against the Applicants’ registration in regard to its’ goods in Int. Class 33. Quoting Century 21 Real Estate Corp. v. Century Life of Am., 970 F.2d 874, 23 USPQ2d 1698 (Fed. Cir. 1992) the Board said, “[w]hen marks would appear on virtually identical … [goods or] services, the degree of similarity [of the marks] necessary to support a conclusion of likely confusion declines.”

However, since the Board had previously stated that the evidence fell short in showing a relation between the Opposer’s goods and the Applicants’ goods under Int. Class 32, it concluded that “consumers are not likely to experience confusion as to the source of those goods, notwithstanding the similarities between the marks.” See, e.g., Kellog Co. v. Pack’ em Enters., Inc., 14 USPQ2d 1545 (TTAB 1990). Therefore, the Board dismissed the opposition of likelihood of confusion under §2(d) for the Applicants’ goods in Int. Class 32.

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