Word reversal does not avoid deceptive similarity for Australian trade marks

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1 min read

In a notable decision by the Australian Trade Marks Office (ATMO), Woolworths Limited successfully opposed Flyers Group PLC's trade mark application, demonstrating that mere word reversal in trademarks does not circumvent issues of deceptive similarity.

Woolworths, which had launched and registered its PINK SUGAR brand in 2007 for girls' clothing and accessories, opposed the UK-based Flyers Group's application for a logo mark featuring the words SUGAR PINK. Despite the reverse order of the words, the Hearings Officer held that both marks conveyed the same essence of sweetness and femininity, a view further reinforced by the script and heart devices in Flyers Group's logo.

Crucially, the decision emphasised that trademarks are not compared strictly side by side. The concept of imperfect recollection was pivotal in this case, highlighting the possibility of confusion between SUGAR PINK and PINK SUGAR in the minds of consumers. The similarities between the goods covered under Flyers Group's application and Woolworths' prior registration also played a significant role.

This ruling underscores the broader principles of trade mark law, particularly in the context of deceptive similarity. It is a caution to businesses that simple alterations in word order in trademarks may not distinguish new marks from existing ones.