On May 14, 2014, Japan announced the adoption of new amendments pertaining to trademark law. These provisions, which will be effective from April 1, 2015, will broaden the scope of trademark protection in Japan.
The following are covered by the latest amendment:
– trademarks consisting of sounds, colors, holograms, motion and position;
– regional collective trademarks.
1. The new trademarks
New distinctive signs can be protected namely sounds, colors, holograms, motion and position trademarks.
Sound marks, which can be composed of musical or non-musical sounds, were already acknowledged by the former Japanese law. The protection provided to sound trademarks will now be extended to very brief sound clips. Colours, even if primary or plain, may be protected given that they are sufficiently distinctive.
The protection of figurative marks will encompass moving objects and animated images. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will be responsible for defining the scope of the applicable provisions.
Touch, olfactory, taste or multimedia marks are not mentioned in the new provisions, but may be added later by METI without resorting to an amendment.
2. Regional collective trademarks
Japan has moved towards an increased protection of regional collective trademarks.
Composed of a regional appellation appended to the name of the product, such signs were rejected, due to their lack of distinctive character. Only some associations which meet specific criteria could overcome the ban.
As from April 2015, a greater number of associations and companies can file an application for a regional collective mark, such as chambers and societies of commerce and industry, or even some foreign legal entities.
This new amendment denotes Japan’s determination to align its legal regime with international trademark law.