As the owner of a HÖRST brand shirt and a cyclist, I might be inclined to think there is a connection between HÖRST shirts and HORST WATERPROOF cycling bags. But I would fail to realize that HÖRST is a common German name and that I may not be a typical Canadian consumer.
A recent Québec case, Octeau et al v. Kempter Marketing Inc., illustrates that identical or similar names do not necessarily mean there is infringement, absent use in association with similar wares and for a similar purpose.
The Plaintiff had three registered Canadian trademarks, HÖRST DÜSSELDORF & Design, CULT HÖRST and H HÖRST & Design, for use in association with an extensive line of clothing. The Defendant manufactured and distributed sporting goods, including high-end cycling and ski products and introduced the HORST WATERPROOF, a waterproof cycling bag named in honour of Horst Kempter, the founder of the company.
The judge noted that there was no attempt by the Plaintiff to prove the Defendant was selling any product “comparable in either style, nature or purpose” to the Plaintiffs’ products. He also pointed out the absence of any evidence that the Defendant sold any product resembling a product produced and sold by the Plaintiff. There was also no evidence of any person drawing a connection between the Plaintiffs’ and the Defendant’s businesses.
The judge reviewed the test for confusion, noting the discussion in Mattel, Inc. v. 3894207 Canada Inc. (the Barbie case) that trademark law affords protection that transcends the traditional product lines, but the issue is whether confusion arises.
What the Plaintiff failed to prove was confusion. In Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin et al v. Boutiques Cliquot Ltée et al Justice Binnie concluded that “luxury champagne and mid-priced women’s wear are as different as chalk and cheese”, a comparison that also applies to HÖRST shirts and HORST WATERPROOF cycling bags.