On June 25, 2010, the Opposition Division of the OHIM found the earlier French trademark VANIA (covering ‘woman sanitary products namely: periodic napkins and tampons, periodic panties, pantiliners’ in class 5) and the contested CTM for NAVIA (for ‘sanitary components / products for medical purposes’ in class 5 also) to be dissimilar and gave prevalence to the intellectual reference that the opposed mark purportedly conveyed.
For the OHIM, the marks shared a certain visual and phonetic similarity. Conceptually, the marks were held to be dissimilar: the OHIM stressed on VANIA being ‘clearly’ a girl name in France while the contested trademark was an invented term which consequently had no meaning. The Opposition Division concluded that there was no overall likelihood of confusion on the part of the public because of this clear association in the mind of French consumers.
With this decision, the OHIM expressly gave prevalence to the intellectual comparison over the visual and phonetic similarity without explaining or detailing further the reasons why the visual and phonetic similarity were so much eluded. This approach had somehow disappeared in the Community practice but it now seems to be possibly back again at an impressive level with this decision.
As French citizens, we are not however aware of VANIA being a common girl name in France. VANIA would at the most be regarded as a fancy word. The association with a girl name could have been different if the territory to consider was located in Eastern Europe but no way in France…