Federal Circuit Compares Mark in Their Entireties for Likelihood of Confusion Analysis

Takeaway: When making a likelihood of confusion analysis, for similarity of the marks, the court is to compare the marks without dissecting the letters, but as a single unitary expression.

The Federal Circuit, in Oakville Hills Cellar, Inc. v. Georgallis Holdings, LLC, [2016-1103], agreed with the TTAB and held that there is no likelihood of confusion between Oakville’s registered mark MAYA and Georgallis’s applied-for mark MAYARI.

While Oakville argued that the Board MAYA dominated both marks and the suffix –RI is minor, and therefore causes confusion, Georgallis responded that the Board correctly analyzed that both MAYA and RI are elements without their own meaning and therefore MAYARI should be perceived as a unitary whole.

Further, Georgallis agreed with the Board for considering the marks in their entireties and finding that MAYA is familiar to U.S. consumers as a reference to the Mayan culture and as a popular female given name, whereas MAYARI is unfamiliar to U.S. consumers.

The Federal Circuit held that the determination of similarity or dissimilarity of the marks must be done in their entireties.  The Federal Circuit stated that there was no evidence that a customer would view the mark logically as MAYA plus RI, rather than as a single unitary expression., and therefore no reason to break the term into MAYA-RI than MAY-ARI or MA-YARI.

The Federal Circuit further emphasized that a single DuPont factor, such as the dissimilarity of the mark in the case, may be dispositive in a likelihood of confusion analysis.