Kagawa slams China trademark quest for ‘udon’

by Reiji Yoshida

The Kagawa Prefectural Government announced Friday it will file a complaint with the Chinese trademark office over an application to trademark the kanji meaning Sanuki “udon,” a specialty noodle named after a local region.

The trademark application was filed by a Chinese individual in Shanghai for use in restaurants and hotels.

The prefecture fears the trademark, if accepted, would hinder udon-related business in China by local Kagawa companies, Yohei Nakayama, an official at Kagawa’s industrial policy section, said by phone.

The complaint will be jointly led by three udon-related business organizations of the prefecture, he said.

“China is a big market, and overseas operations (of companies based in Kagawa) are possible in the future,” Nakayama said. “We’d like to avoid trouble in developing business there.”

Sanuki udon is a popular wheat-flour noodle known for its chewy texture. Sanuki is an old name of the region, which roughly covered present-day Kagawa Prefecture, a fact widely known among Japanese.

To block the registration, the prefecture will prove the brand name is widely known in China as well, Nakayama said, adding that the government will collect and submit newspapers, magazines and other materials published in China.

In recent years, many Chinese have trademarked the names of famous Japanese places, names and local specialities, to the consternation of related Japanese parties.

Kagawa, which keeps close tabs on the database of the Trademark Office of the Chinese government, found the application in question last June, Nakayama said.