City seeks to trademark poet’s name

by Reiji Yoshida

The government of Yamaguchi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, has filed to register the name of local son and poet Chuya Nakahara as a trademark for snacks, stationery, beer, sake and Nakahara-related events, a city official said Thursday.

The municipality, which runs a museum dedicated to the famous poet, filed the application with the Japan Patent Office in February to forestall infringement by other parties, the official said.

“We consider Chuya Nakahara a resource to invigorate the local region,” said Takashi Yasumura of the city’s cultural policy section.

In principle, the city will not charge for the use of the name by other parties if doing so helps the local area, he said, adding the application is based on an agreement with surviving relatives of the poet.

Since his death at the age of 30 in 1937, Nakahara’s reputation as a lyrical poet who touched on themes of sadness and solitude has grown.

But the issue of whether a historic person’s name can be registered as a trademark is controversial.

Last year, the Japan Patent Office drew a protest from the city of Hagi when it allowed a Tokyo-based consulting firm to register the name of Yoshida Shoin, a thinker and mentor of samurai revolutionaries in the late 19th century who ran a school for his many followers in the Yamaguchi Prefecture town.