The decision in Red Bull GmbH v OHIM gives an insight into what OHIM will take into account when a considering whether trade marks are 'similar' and there is a likelihood of confusion.
Red Bull challenged Sun Mark's application to register the word BULLDOG as a Community trade mark for various drinks. OHIM set aside the decision of the Second Board of Appeal (which has found no likelihood of confusion) upholding Red Bull's challenge.
Red Bull relied on its own earlier international and Austrian registrations of the word mark BULL and RED BULL which it had registered for identical goods, but largely it was the BULL registrations that swayed the decision.
The General Court held that on account of the extra letters DOG in BULLDOG, the two marks had only average visual and phonetic similarity. Furthermore most non-English speakers would not normally be familiar with the word "bull" (which was pronounced differently in most European languages) and, among those unfamiliar with the word "bull", there was obviously no conceptual similarity. However, the position for English-speaking drinkers clearly was different in that they would be familiar with the word and also in England there is an association between bulls and bulldogs in that bulldogs were originally bred to participate in bull-baiting (although the General Court did note that this might not be a particularly well-known association).
Overall, the General Court concluded that the marks were similar and therefore the two marks were for identical goods and there was a likelihood of confusion.Case Law, News, Trade Marks