Three Years after the Regional Collective Trademark Law went into effect, the system is still not well known among foreign business associations. The Japan Patent Office announced in February, 2009, that 873 regional marks were registered since the law went into force in 2006, and only four of them were regional brand names from foreign business cooperative associations. The four marks were “Parma Prosciutto,” “Canada Pork,” “Indian Darjeeling Tea” and “Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.”
In Japan, trademarks of products and services that have become well known through use and are associated with a distinct geographical area can be registered as “regional collective trademarks.” The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) defines these marks as ‘indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a Member…where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.’ Registering a regional mark makes it possible to take measures against counterfeit products and helps create an attractive regional “brand” that can help stimulate a particular region’s economy.
A prominent example of a regional mark is Champagne from this region of France or Kobe beef from Hyogo Prefecture, Japan which is famous for their marbled steaks. Other examples of recently registered regional marks in Japan are Arima Hot Springs, Sendai Miso Paste and Yokohama China Town.
Foreign owners of regional collective trademarks would do well to register their marks in Japan and take advantage of the benefits this system offers to their region’s businesses.
(Posted April 2, 2009)