24 November 2016Jurisdiction reportsRyo Maruyama

A race to the finish

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) examiner refused to approve the application, saying in part that: “The trademark in the present application represents the letters ‘PRC’ in a manner that does not go beyond a manner that is commonly used, and that according to the Gendai-yogo-no-kisochishiki 2014 (Basic Knowledge of Current Terms 2014), published by Jiyukokuminsha, the letters concerned refer to an abbreviated representation of the name People’s Republic of China, and therefore a meaning close to ‘product made in China’ is recognised from these letters taken together.

“Further, considering that a variety of goods made in China are labelled as ‘Made in the PRC’ and are generally sold and distributed, it is deemed that if the trademark in the present application is used on its designated goods, then dealers, consumers, and so on seeing the subject trademark will recognise only that such goods are ‘goods made in China’ and will be unable to recognise such goods as those pertaining to a business of a particular party.

“As a result, the trademark in the present application constitutes a mark that, pursuant to the provisions of Trademark Law article 3(1)(vi) and of article 4(1)(xvi), may not be registered, because if the trademark concerned is used on any good(s) other than ‘goods made in China’, it might cause misperception of the quality of that/those good(s).”

The appeal decision

On June 24, 2016, a panel of JPO appeal examiners (appeal no. 2016-3199) reversed the JPO examiner’s initial decision that the subject mark constitutes one that, according to the provisions of article 3(1)(vi) and article 4(1)(xvi) of the Trademark Law, may not be registered. The panel’s decision was based on the following considerations.

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