Strong resemblance

L’Oréal had argued before the Japanese trademark office that Noreal not only visually but also phonetically bears a strong resemblance to the globally recognized brand L’Oréal. Consumers might confuse the cosmetic brands. However, to the dismay of the French, the trademark office rejected the opposition.

l'Oréal Noreal

Letter difference

On April 5th of this year, the Japanese authorities indicated that the trademarks differ significantly. The bureau particularly emphasizes the fact that the initial letter in both brands is different: an N versus an L. This has a substantial influence on the visual and aural impression of the marks. Additionally, according to the trademark office, it was not obvious from the evidence that the L’Oréal mark was highly recognised as a source indicator of L’Oréal among a wide range of consumers.

Different outcome in the EU

An intriguing ruling that, in my opinion, would have certainly yielded a different outcome in Europe. I would venture to say that the fact that the last five letters in these 6-letter trademarks are identical leads to a significant similarity. As for the recognition: I’m not sure about Japan, but L’Oréal’s substantial recognition in Europe is well-established. Well-known brands generally receive ample protection. I believe the owner of Noreal would be wise not to expand their business into the EU.

Bas Kist