Sanity: MasterCard Loses Absolutely Idiotic Trademark Challenge Against An Athletic Competition

from the nice dept

I will occasionally have someone suggest to me that we don’t cover enough good or positive news about intellectual property disputes here at Techdirt, and I know our other writers occasionally hear that as well. I think it’s probably not as true as those folks think it is, but certainly we talk about the problems in the IP realm more than when courts and businesses get it right. Still, it’s a good idea to highlight that the entire collective world isn’t insane on these kinds of issues.

Which brings us to a trademark dispute in New Zealand, brought by credit card company MasterCard against a sporting event. And the dispute itself is certainly laughable.

MasterCard International Inc challenged the colour and words of the 2017 World Masters Games, to be held in Auckland, claiming it was too similar to its own logo. MasterCard argued the event’s name and logo was “likely to deceive or cause confusion” and was too similar to the credit card company’s name and logo. World Masters Games disagreed. World Masters Games said there was no confusion, or even allegations of confusion, despite the parties’ respective marks co-existing in new Zealand since at least March 2014.

Yes, while both MasterCard’s logo and the logo for World Masters Games almost share a word in common, that obviously isn’t enough to amount to anything remotely resembling trademark infringement. Instead, the real focus was on that common word and its use in the logos for each company, with MasterCard insisting that those logos were so similar that customers would be confused. And here are the logos in question.

One wonders if there is a gas leak in the legal department at MasterCard HQ. Because there is nothing in those logos that would mislead a drunken chimp, never mind a human being. Yet MasterCard moved forward with challenging the trademark application for World Masters Games, because trademark bullying knows no limits. The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, fortunately, essentially laughed this out of the trademark office.

However, the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand ruled MasterCard had no grounds to oppose and allowed the registration of 2017 World Master Games’ logo. In her decision, Trade Marks assistant commissioner Natasha Alley said the opposed mark – that of World Masters Games – was “visually, aurally and conceptually dissimilar to the MasterCard word marks”.

“They convey very different ideas and look and sound different.”

That’s a more polite way of saying, “Why in the world are you even here bothering us with this?” Good on the IP office of New Zealand for getting this exactly correct.

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Companies: mastercard, world masters games

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Comments on “Sanity: MasterCard Loses Absolutely Idiotic Trademark Challenge Against An Athletic Competition”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

I can see it

MasterCard had a completely valid point here, I can clearly remember a time not too long ago when I reached into my wallet intending to pull out one of their credit cards and instead withdrew an international multi-sport event. Were the logos not so similar mistakes like that couldn’t happen, and as such MasterCard was fully justified in opposing the trademark application.

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