Trademark allowed for Local B-class cuisine in Japan

In a move that is expected to boost the local economies and business, the Japanese government has decided to allow regional chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations to register trademarks for so-called B-class cuisine, commercial jingles and even colours. At a Cabinet meeting conducted last week, the government decided to adopt a bill to amend the Patent Law and other relevant laws.

As per the regional collective trademark system introduced in April 2006, the registration of trademarks drew from a regional name and a specific product name could only be submitted by cooperative business associations, such as fishing and farming. Accordingly, a large group of about 550 local brand names are presently registered for such regional specialties as agricultural products and traditional handcrafts, including Mashiko pottery from Mashiko, Tochigi Prefecture, and Seki horse mackerel from Oita Prefecture.

In the past the chambers of commerce, NPOs and other bodies had attempted, but did not succeed to register B-class cuisine, which was famous in many areas. However, with the passing of the new law, these organizations can register such dishes as regional brands. The demand to improve the present system started some business operators with no prior connection to a certain geographical area sold goods imitating a local product.

The revision will extend the scope of registering a company’s brand beyond a logo or lettering as the new system will allow distinctive sounds and also colours to be registered. Some sound and colours can be registered in the United States and European nations as trademarks protected by law. In fact, the recognizable blue, white and black striped color scheme of Tombow Pencil Co.’s Mono erasers and sounds used in Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical Co.’s advertisements have been registered as trademark in Europe, according to reports from the Japan Patent Office.

Also to be noted is that in a related move, the Patent Office plans to reduce the time needed to complete screening of patent applications to less than 14 months by fiscal 2023. If this is successful, it would be much shorter than the current 2½ years usually taken for the process, and would be the fastest in the world.

Trademark Registration in Japan

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