Japan is an island country located in East Asia. Together with Japan, South Korea, Japan is one of the most developing economies in Asia particularly and in the world generally. In recent years, the number of enterprise established in Japan is increasing rapidly, which creates opportunity for many individuals/organizations. However, if you are planning to do business in or with Japan, you should consider registering your brand – trademark in Japan first. That’s because trademark identity is critical for the success of an enterprise in Japan, and if you want your trademark to be protected under Japanese law, you must register them. Hereinafter, we shall consult you about the procedure of trademark registration in Japan.

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1, Searching

Japan applies “first to file” principle, which means that if any other applicants file applications for the identical or similar trademark used for identical or similar goods and services after the first applicant has applied, those later applications will be refused.

Therefore, before filing a trademark application, you need to search prior trademarks to see if identical or similar trademarks have been registered by other applicants. Generally, trademark agent or attorney conducts this search with the Trademark Office to check if there are any similar trademarks already registered under that particular class. Trademark search can save the applicant the time, effort and cost entailed in developing, adopting and applying to register a trademark in which someone else has prior.

2, Required documents for filling:

The following information and/or documents are required to file an application for a trademark application in Japan:

(a) Name, address and nation of the applicant.

(b) Samples of the mark.

(c). Power of Attorney (POA) executed by the applicant. Notarization and legalization are required.

(d) The list of goods/services containing the trademark.

3, Receiving office

In Japan, trademark applications shall be submitted to Japan Patent Office (JPO). However, you should notice that persons who don’t reside or who are not domiciled in Japan cannot conduct any procedure, with respect to trademark applications or trademark right, directly with the JPO and must appoint a representative in Japan. Therefore, it is advised that you should appoint an IP attorney as your representative to be consulted about the procedures in detail.

4, Multi-class application

In Japan, multi-class application is available, which means the applicants can apply more than one class of goods/services for their trademarks.

Like many other countries, Japan uses the NICE classification to divide classes of goods/services,

5, Time frame for obtaining registration

The processing time from filing to trademark registration in Japan is approximately 14-16 months, including:

  • Application: Every applicant is required to submit an application with the Japan Patent Office (JPO).
  • Publication of Unexamined Application: The JPO will publish the content of an application in the Official Gazette after filing.
  • Formality Examination: An application document submitted to the JPO will be checked to see whether it fulfills the necessary procedural and formal requirements. An invitation to correct will be made where necessary documents are missing or required sections have not been filled in.
  • Substantive Examination: An examination will be made of whether the application fulfills the substantive requirements. The following trademarks will be refused as they are deemed not to meet the substantive requirements.

(i)Trademarks which do not enable consumers to differentiate the applicant’s goods or services from those belonging to other parties

(ii)Trademarks which are un-registrable for reasons of public interest or for the protection of private interests

  • Registration: In case there’s no objection and the trademark meets all substantive requirements, the trademark shall be granted protection certificate

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