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.

Filed Under: likelihood of confusion, new zealand, trademark
Companies: mastercard, world masters games


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  • icon
    TKnarr (profile), 11 Oct 2016 @ 11:57pm

    Might've been fun to see MasterCard win, only to have the Master's Tournament sue them on the exact same grounds citing the previous decision in support of their claim. MasterCard: absolute earliest trademark registration 1966. Master's Tournament: been around under that name since 1934. Priority much?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:31am

    Master Games, Master Card

    Master Card, Master Bates.

    It's all a bunch of wankers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      hij (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 6:35am

      Re: Master Games, Master Card

      They should sue Mel Brooks for his use of the term "Master Race" in the movie The Producers. It is possibly a better case for them as it may be more likely to lead to confusion when comparing the company to the organization referred to in the film.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 2:55am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 12:35pm

      Re: I can see it

      There was also the time that I avoided going into a store because I didn't see the World Masters Games 2017 logo in the window, so I knew I couldn't use my credit card there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 4:52am

    "One wonders if there is a gas leak in the legal department at MasterCard HQ. "

    This is why they outlawed smoking indoors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 4:54am

    obviously they are not making enough billions of dollars in profit that they feel they must shake down other groups for spare cash.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    No One Ever, 12 Oct 2016 @ 5:47am

    I often get confused by the difference between a sporting event and a credit card company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 12 Oct 2016 @ 7:28am

    "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"

    Seriously?

    "positive news about intellectual property disputes"
    Good luck finding that needle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 9:18am

    Trademark lawyers are the most easily confused people on earth. It is amazing they can even tie their shoes in the morning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 9:45am

    Lawyers earning their retainers.... through any means necessary.
    It would be interesting to see studies of how much 'goodwill' these trademark titans end up losing after pursuing insane claims. Perhaps if they understood how much a failure will cost them, they would stop allowing lawyers to file stupid things just to get paid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 3:48pm

    Interesting that Mastercard just noticed this

    Given that the WMG have been around since 1985.

    Don't tell about the Americas Master Games, which just started.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Oct 2016 @ 9:14pm

    At this point if a company goes forward and loses a suit like this the penalty should be the removal of their trademark entirely. That way they will be real careful in who they go after and only commit to a lawsuit if they are 100% sure they will win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    charliebrown (profile), 12 Oct 2016 @ 11:44pm

    Not The Doctor

    You know the bad guy from "Doctor Who"? Is this the card he/she uses? MasterCard, good for evilness across time and space.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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