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Trademark trends in Japan

Speaking at the JPO Users’ Meeting, Kazuhiro Kimura gave an update on application figures and how the Office is improving its service

There have been 1,291 applications for the new types of non-traditional trademarks accepted in Japan beginning April 2015.

As of April 30 2016, 66 of these have been registered, according to figures provided by Kazuhiro Kimura, Director of the Trademark Policy Planning Office at the Japan Patent Office.

Speaking at the JPO Users’ Meeting, Kimura said that the 66 registrations comprised 32 sound marks, 28 motion marks, five position marks and one hologram mark. There had been some applications for single colors, he added, but none has yet been granted: “We are still carefully examining whether the applied-for marks are distinctive.”

Kimura also provided the audience of Japanese and foreign practitioners with data on trademark trends in Japan, noting that the number of applications has been increasing steadily since 2011, with China being the biggest driver of growth.

The Office has taken a number of steps to improve its service to users, including shortening the period of time to first action, revising the Trademark Examination Guidelines and clarifying the classification of goods and services. Last year, trademark registration fees were reduced by about 25% and renewal fees by about 20%.

The Office is involved in international cooperation, including through the TM5 framework and with the ASEAN region. In the TM5, Japan is responsible for projects on bad faith trademark filing, image search for figurative trademarks and improving the user-friendliness of international trademark applications.

Another area it is focused on is anticounterfeiting. Recent surveys of businesses and consumers have been carried out and show, said Kimura, that: “We need to work on trademark awareness.” To this end, a Manga cartoon contest has been run.

Junichi Honda of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co elaborated on what Japanese industry is doing to tackle counterfeiting, providing case studies from Toshiba, Toyota, Asics, Sumitomo and Lixil. These demonstrated the value of various strategies, including Customs seizures, effective labelling, anticounterfeiting technology and Internet ­monitoring.

The case studies showed, said Honda, that “Japanese companies take aggressive actions against counterfeits, but there is a restriction placed by [factors such as] budget and human resources.”

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