Partial revision of the Japan Trademark Law in force on May 27, 2019

Partial revision of the Japan Trademark Law which aims to amend the Article 31 (1) was promulgated on May 17, 2019 and takes effect on May 27, 2019.


Non-exclusive license for famous mark owned by public entity

Existing Trademark Law permits to register a mark which is identical with, or similar to, a famous mark representing (i) the nation, (ii) a local government, (iii) an agency thereof, (iv) a non-profit organization undertaking a business for public interest, or (v) a non-profit activity for public interest [Article 4(1)(vi)], provided that an applicant of the mark corresponds with the public entity from (i) to (iv), or an individual who is managing (v) [Article 4(2)].


Article 31 is a provision pertinent to “non-exclusive trademark license”.

Under the existing law, owner of trademark right (licensor) may grant a non-exclusive permission for the use of its mark to another [Article 31(1)]. In the meantime, the article has an exceptional clause and disallows a non-exclusive license for the use of registered mark which was granted based on Article 4(2).


New Revision

According to announcement from the Japan Patent Office, “Recently, public entity aiming to encourage regional development and collaboration with industry gets involved in necessity to advertise or promote goods or products originated from the entity. Inter alia, universities/colleges are desirous to secure financial resources, publicize achievements of academic research and increase publicity of the school by means of granting permission for the use of famous mark to a business entity”.


By the revision, the exceptional clause is deleted from Article 31(1).

From May 27, 2019, it enables an owner of trademark right for famous mark, i.e. (i) the nation, (ii) a local government, (iii) an agency thereof, (iv) a non-profit organization undertaking a business for public interest, or (v) an individual who manages non-profit activity for public interest, to grant “non-exclusive license” permission for the use of its famous mark.

It should be noted that the revision does not apply to “exclusive trademark license” provided in Article 30 (1). It remains impermissible. 

WTR report: The first individual in history to have filed over 100,000 trademark applications

A notorious and incredibly prolific trademark application filer in Japan, Ikuhiro Ueda, is causing headaches for brands in Japan.

As the figures below show, the rate of the filings – both using the applicant name ‘Ikuhiro Ueda’ and his legal entity name ‘Best Licensing Co’ – stepped up in 2016 and 2017, reaching 24,500 and 32,000 applications per year respectively. The sheer number of applications from Ueda accounted for 18.5% of all trademarks to the JPO in 2017, and even reached over 30% in the first two months of this year.

As the graph shows, there was a dip in 2018. This was due to an attempt from the Japanese government to quell the rate of filings from entities like Ueda. A new law, the ‘Trademark Law Revision Act of 2018’, came into force on June 9 last year and introduced stipulations that – in theory – erected a hurdle to the mass filing of trademark applications without paying fees. However, that revision was not enough to permanently slow the number of applications. As the below graph shows, applications from Ueda-related entities did significantly picked up again in December 2018.

According to CompuMark’s Robert Reading, he is now the first individual in history to have filed over 100,000 trademark applications. To put the activity into context, the table below looks at the trademark activity of the world’s largest companies – and shows Ueda comfortably out in front.

While Ueda’s trademark application portfolio is unmatched, so too is his success rate – although presumably not in the way he wants. “Amazingly, Ueda only has three registered trademarks – so just one in every 30,000 applications actually succeeds, which translates to a success rate of 0.0028%”, Reading further reveals.

(Excerpt from WTR online report dated April 11, 2019 by Tim Lance)

Masaki MIKAMI, Attorney at IP Law – Founder of MARKS IP LAW FIRM