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Otokoyama Co. v. Wine of Japan Import, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
175 F.3d 266, 50 U.S.P.Q.2d 1626 (1999)


Otokoyama Co. (Otokoyama) (plaintiff) and Wine of Japan Import (Wine of Japan) (defendant) were both importers of Japanese sake. Otokoyama registered four trademarks for the term “otokoyama,” as well as the Japanese translations of the word, and began importing its sake into the United States in 1984. Otokoyama was unable to register the same terms for trademark protection in Japan, because the words were so commonly used there in relation to other brands of sake. In 1997, Wine of Japan began to import a product called “Mutsu Otokoyama.” Otokoyama then sued Wine of Japan for infringing its trademark and sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Wine of Japan’s importation of that sake. Wine of Japan counterclaimed and sought to cancel Otokoyama’s trademarks. Wine of Japan claimed that “otokoyama” was a generic term for that type of sake and that Otokoyama had misrepresented the Japanese translation when obtaining its trademarks. The district court granted Otokoyama’s preliminary injunction without considering the meaning of “otokoyama” outside of the United States or Otokoyama’s inability to register the term in Japan. Wine of Japan then appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Leval, J.)

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