The Goods: Because the involved goods overlap, the Board presumed that they travel in the same trade channels to the same classes of consumers. These du Pont factors weighed heavily in favor of a finding of likely confusion.
Fame: Volvo submitted sales and advertising figures as well as evidence regarding length of use of the mark, its numerous registrations, consumer exposure to the mark, and unsolicited media attention. Most of the evidence related to Volvo vehicles, but some related to technical aspects such as safety technologies and laser traffic monitoring devices. In any case, “[c]onsidering the volume and nature of the fame evidence,” the Board found that “the fame of VOLVO extends beyond just vehicles and transfers to computer and video screen goods that we find most relevant to this proceeding. Cf. Recot, 54 USPQ2d at 1897 (erroneous to find that fame ‘extends no farther than the products with which the marks are currently used’ because fame ‘is a dominant factor in the likelihood of confusion analysis for a famous mark, independent of the relatedness of the goods.”
VOLVO is a conceptually strong mark “to those unfamiliar with the dead language Latin.” Opposer stated that the Latin word VOLVO means “I am rolling.” Most customers would likely be unaware of this meaning. The word VOLVO “probably would be perceived either as a fanciful term or, for those familiar with Latin, as a slightly suggestive word” in this context. As to commercial strength, there was no evidence of any use or registration of VOLVO or similar marks for similar goods or services. [Note that applicant submitted no evidence. – ed.].
The Marks: Since the involved goods are legally identical, a lesser degree of similarity between the marks is necessary to support a finding of likely confusion. Moreover, a famous mark “casts a long shadow which competitors must avoid.”
WOLVOL contains four of the five letters of VOLVO in the same order. The beginning “V” and “W” sound similar. The Board found the overall sounds of the marks to be similar. The common string OLVO engenders a visual similarity in the marks. The connotations and commercial impressions are not a significant point of distinction. The Board found that this factor favored opposer.
Conditions of Purchase: Given the ubiquity of computers, consumers would exercise nothing more than ordinary care in their purchasing decisions.
Conclusion: The Board found confusion likely, and so it sustained the opposition. It declined to reach Volvo’s dilution claim.
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TTABlog comment: My Latin is a bit rusty, but I thought “volvo” meant “I revolve.” A Man Called Ove would never drive a Volvo.
Text Copyright John L. Welch 2019.