Trade marks: Bass and Pash similar in German pronunciation?

The IPKAT reports a decision of the Court of First Instance of the European Communities (CFI). The Community Trademark Board of Appeal decided in September 2001 that BASS (footwear and clothing) and PASH (leather goods and clothing, belts, footwear and headgear) were confusingly similar. The matter came before the CFI in another connection, but the CFI also annulled the decision:

bq. The CFI also annulled the substance of the Board’s decision, holding that BASS and PASH were not similar enough to lead to a likelihood of confusion between the two parties’ goods. While visually the two marks had the same number of letters and same two central letters, the public were not more likely to focus on the central letters than any of the other letters and the similarity between the letters B and P was limited. Aurally, though B and P are pronounced very similarly in some regions of Germany and the only vowel contained in both signs was identical and even though “sh” sound is not used in German, a sufficient part of the German public was familiar enough with the pronunciation of English words ending in “sh” that they would not mispronounce PASH as “pass”. Conceptually, BASS called to mind the voice of a singer of musical instrument while PASH was likely to be associated with the German dice game Pasch.

Well, the Franconians tend to refer to B and P as ‘soft B’ and ‘hard B’.

2 thoughts on “Trade marks: Bass and Pash similar in German pronunciation?

  1. This is a very interesting issue, of the impression that a trademark would make on the average European consumer. Here in Canada the test for confusion of trademarks includes an assessment of how a mark might strike a bilingual consumer (there is the famous Nutella case, in which the mark Noixelle was found not confusing with Nutella) but in a jurisdiction where there are dozens of languages, the threshold for confusion may well be quite low if one takes into account all of these languages at the same time!

  2. Amazing, isn’t it. Still, it seems to be an eccentric decision of the Board of Appeal, and previously the Opposition Division, including one German speaker, held that there was no likelihood of confusion.

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