Is an “A+B” Combined Trademark Substantially Similar to a Separate “B” Trademark?

(By Luo Yanjie) The Taiwan-based Yilan Food Industry Co., Ltd. (“Yilan”) is a well-known food manufacturing company, and owns the registered trademark “旺旺” (read as “Wang Wang” in Chinese) in several classes. Alibaba (China) Co., Ltd. (“Alibaba”) is a renowned e-commerce company based in Mainland China; it owns and maintains a subsidiary that develops and promotes its instant messaging software called “淘宝旺旺” (read literally as “Tao Bao Wang Wang” in Chinese). When Alibaba attempted to register the trademark for its software application, Yilan immediately filed a protest against it. In today’s post, we will concentrate primarily on this case. The main issue surrounding the case is relatively simple: a trademark can be considered a type of rare “resource” for its owner to make use of, and if in this case the trademark “旺旺” is already owned and registered by another entity, does it seem reasonable that a subsequent registrant simply attaches the prefix “淘宝” to it to avoid inevitable issues surrounding confusion as a result of the similarity of the two?