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MAYA And MAYARI Are Not Confusingly Similar When Used On Wine

The Federal Circuit has upheld the findings of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board that use of the marks MAYA and MAYARI on wine is not likely to cause confusion.  Oakville Hills Cellar, Inc. vs.  Georgallis Holdings, LLC, Case No. 2016-1103 (Fed. Cir. June 24, 2016). The court concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the Board’s finding that the marks were sufficiently dissimilar in appearance, sound, meaning and commercial impression to avoid likely confusion, despite the fact that they were used on virtually identical products which would be sold to similar customers in similar channels of trade.

The Board had held that MAYA was a word with an established meaning, whereas MAYARI would not be perceived by the average consumer as having any particular meaning. It disagreed that the esoteric meanings associated with the MAYARI mark would be recognized by the average consumer, and determined that most consumers would perceive  MAYA as a female personal name or the name of a pre-Columbian civilization and the  MAYARI mark as a coined term without meaning. It also found that since the letters RI had no meaning individually, there was no evidence to support the contention that consumers would perceive any separation, visual or otherwise, between MAYA and RI, and would regard it as a single unitary expression.

The pronunciation of the  MAYARI mark was also discussed.  The Board had found that there was nothing in the record to suggest how the MAYARI mark would be pronounced. Accordingly, without evidence to show that the marks would be pronounced alike, it noted that it may well be that they would be pronounced quite differently.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit emphasized that in determining the similarity or dissimilarity between marks, the two must be compared in their entireties. It agreed with the Board’s contention that the marks should not be dissected for purposes of analysis, that there was a lack of evidence concerning the pronunciation of the MAYARI mark, and that there was substantial evidence supporting the types of commercial impressions each mark would create on the average consumer. In affirming the dismissal of the opposition to the registration of MAYARI, the court reiterated its previous holdings that “a single DuPont factor may be dispositive in a likelihood of confusion analysis, especially when that single factor is the dissimilarity of the marks.”

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Susan Neuberger Weller manages the Trademark & Copyright Practice at Mintz. Susan assists clients with securing and protecting IP assets across the globe. She's worked with clients in a variety of industries, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, software, electronics, and entertainment.