Japan refused the AINU trademark of a Chinese citizen

Japan refused the AINU trademark of a Chinese citizen

Japan refused the AINU trademark of a Chinese citizen

On March 23, 2021, the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) rejected a trademark application for a Chinese national living in Shenzhen because it used the name of Japan’s indigenous Ainu people.

According to JPO, the AINU application was filed in March 2020 for electronic technology products such as smartphone cases and computer mice. However, this application received heavy criticism from Ainu people – the indigenous Japanese living in Hokkaido. They see this action as a dark strategy to commercialize their culture for business purposes.

Japan refused the AINU trademark of a Chinese citizen

JPO rejected the application on the grounds that this Latin name would simply and easily be mistaken for a native’s name. In addition, the Japanese Patent Office also stated: “An exclusive use of the trademark is against the benefits of our country’s society and the public, and may harm public order and moral standards.”

In 2019, the Japanese government enacted a law making the Ainu indigenous people in order to protect and promote Ainu culture as a way to deal with historical discrimination and disparity in socioeconomic.

Refusal of trademark registration and trademark revocation due to the confusion of indigenous names

This is not the first time that an intellectual property agency has come up with measures to deal with the confusion of indigenous names. According to the Kyoto Tea Cooperative, in the past, the National Intellectual Property Office of China had revoked the trademark “Kyoto Uji” which was registered in China for tea products of Chinese companies. After a while, the Kyoto tea cooperative filed a trademark revocation request with the authorities in November 2019 because they thought their brand of “Uji” tea would be damaged by this trademark. Subsequently, China’s National Intellectual Property Administration issued a decision to revoke the trademark in January 2020.

Expert opinion

According to Ms. Nina Li – partner at IP March in Beijing: “The registration and use of a trademark in any country must comply with the law of that country. Therefore, if the trademark application violates local law, it is reasonable for the local government to refuse the application under the law. China’s trademark law also clearly stipulates the types of signs that are not allowed to be used or registered as trademarks in China. If trademark applications are filed with such marks, CNIPA will reject the application under Chinese trademark law. For example, signs identical or similar to Chinese country names, national flags, … will not be allowed to be used or registered as a trademark in China. There is no general rule as to whether trademarks containing the unique characteristics of the local culture are allowed to be used or registered as trademarks in China. However, if the trademark hurts political, economic, cultural, religious, ethnic, or other public social interests and the public order of China, CNIPA will from deny that trademark application. Besides, if the trademark is likely to mislead the public about the place of manufacture or other characteristics of the goods, CNIPA will also refuse that trademark application.”

*** Other Articles***

– You could visit here to see Procedure of Trademark in Japan.

– You could visit here to check the Required documents of filing trademark in Japan.

– You can also check the Procedure of Trademark in China.

–  You could check the Required documents of filing trademark in China.

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