20 January 2020Rory O'Neill

Japan steps up IP protection for Wagyu beef

The Japanese government is set to propose legislation imposing stronger protections on the IP for Wagyu beef, one of the country’s most famed agricultural products.

Wagyu refers to beef produced from the four Japanese cattle breeds, including kobe.

According to The Japan Times, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest, and Fisheries will propose legislation to protect the genetic material of Japanese cattle as IP.

Officials hope the new law will allow the country to more effectively crackdown on the smuggling of genetic samples, particularly to China.

The bill, which will likely appear in the Diet (parliament) during the current term, would formally ban the smuggling of fertilised cattle eggs and semen outside of the country.

Japan’s beef industry has grown increasingly concerned at the proliferation of Chinese wagyu breeders, which they fear could pose a threat to the indigenous industry.

Japanese police arrested a man last February for attempting to transport fertilised cattle eggs and sperm to China, the South China Morning Post reported.

The man reportedly told police that he did not know it was illegal to transport such material.

He was charged with violation of the Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control Law, the case being the first time this law had been applied to the transportation of genetic material outside the country.

Lawmakers will now consider whether to introduce a new law specifically for that purpose, which would classify the beef resulting from the cattle DNA as protectable IP.

Japanese farmers would be able to obtain injunctions against the trading of calves resulting from “improperly traded” cattle genes, the report indicated.

There are Wagyu breeders’ associations in countries including Australia, the UK, and Canada.

In the US, Japanese cattle breeds have been crossbred with the Angus breed originating from Scotland.

A notice on the US Department of Agriculture’s website explains that, since 1994, US producers have brought Wagyu herds to the US.

The resulting meat is often marketed as “American kobe-style beef”.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories like this sent straight to your inbox.

Today's top stories:

IP5 hold joint AI response meeting

Google not liable over ‘hotlinked’ image, rules English court

Eden Project artist accuses botanic garden of copying exhibition

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at