Is it possible for foreign companies to apply for trademark protection in Japan?

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February 23, 2016
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The trademark system in Japan does not discriminate between domestic or international applicants. The protections offered by the Trademark Law are equally open to foreign companies and people as they are to Japanese citizens. This encourages international investment in Japan by giving foreign companies an easy method to secure protection for their intellectual property prior to expanding their business into the Japanese market.

To apply for a trademark in Japan, an applicant only needs to have plans to use the trademark in the future. This means that the trademark does not need to be in use, either domestically within Japan or internationally, before applying for protection under the Trademark Law. This lenient system encourages investors to apply for a trademark early if they think there is a chance that they might eventually enter the Japanese market. However, if the trademark is not used within three years of the application, the protection will expire.

The protection granted for a trademark under the Japan Trademark Law lasts for 10 years and may be renewed for another 10 years after that. Japan takes trademark infringement very seriously and the illegal use of trademarks is punished severely under the law. In many cases, illegal selling of fake brand-name goods can be punished criminally in addition to whatever civil liability the infringing party faces.

If you have any questions about trademark law in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.