One of the most rewarding and educational aspects of living in a multicultural society such as the United Kingdom today is that you get to find out so much about the way others live their lives. Until reading British Shorinji Kempo Federation v Shorinji Kempo Unity  EWHC 285 (Ch) he had no idea that Shorinji Kempo even existed, and certainly no suspicion that his friends an neighbours might be getting up to it. Anyway, this decision of Mr Justice Warren in the Chancery Division, England and Wales, has proved to be most instructive.
What was the basis for the appeal? Under section 6A of the Trade Marks Act 1994, registration of BSKF's mark could not be refused by reason of an earlier mark, unless, within the period of five years ending on 1 July 2011, that earlier mark had been put to genuine use in the UK by the proprietor or with its consent in relation to the goods or services for which it was registered. Before Warren J both sides applied to submit further evidence and, since neither objected to the submission of fresh evidence by the other, the judge kindly agreed.
Warren J dismissed SKU's appeal. In his view:
* SKU had indeed shown genuine use of its earlier marks, both through use made of it by BSKF and by the UKSKF online and on clothing sold at its branches. However ...
* the words 'Shorinji Kempo' were generic since they identified a particular martial art in the same way as other words described other martial arts (reference being made to judo, karate and taekwando [which Merpel embarrassingly thought to be a board game]). It was clear that Shorinji Kempo's founder Doshin So had considered Shorinji Kempo to be an ancient art and had not tried to ascribe its name to himself or to the organisation that he had founded, to the exclusion of others.
* since the words 'Shorinji Kempo' described an activity, SKU could not claim to arrogate the right to use those words to itself and its licensees.
* the kanji were the only distinctive element of the earlier mark. This being so, since BSKF's mark didn't have any kanji, the two marks were not similar -- and that was an end to the matter.
The IPKat thinks the result is correct and suspects that, within the world of British Shorinji Kempo practitioners, where loyalties are strong and passions run high, few people will be in any doubt as to which organisation is which. Merpel thinks this litigation was a waste of time: the two parties could have fought it out, using their finely honed martial skills, with the winner getting to "keep" the mark.