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Edano urges China to respect certified trademark rights

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

From the names of cities and prefectures to local brands around Japan, China has been steadily acquiring trademark rights.

And trade minister Yukio Edano is not happy.

During a session of the Upper House Budget Committee earlier this week, he slammed China for “usurpation” of Japanese names.

“The usurpation of trademarks by China is a very alarming situation. . . . Allowing this sort of thing to happen is about a nation’s pride and I want to ask China if it has any pride,” Edano said.

According to 2009 data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, there were 203 cases in which third parties in China won trademark rights that were the same as or very similar to ones acquired by Japanese companies in Japan.

For example, the names “Arita-yaki” — a type of porcelain from Saga Prefecture — and “Mino-yaki” — ceramic ware from Gifu — have already been taken in China. China also granted a trademark for the name of the “Crayon Shin-chan” manga, but this was reportedly revoked Tuesday because it went unused for three years.

During Tuesday’s budget committee session, Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Toshiro Tomochika brought up the issue and expressed strong concern. He referred to a survey by the Japan Patent Office that shows that in 2010, 68 percent out of 944 Japanese firms claimed that their patent rights were violated by Chinese companies, including the usurpation of trademark rights.

“As a country that uses kanji, Japan has become an easy target. The usurpation problem is a major obstacle for Japanese corporations and regions,” Tomochika said.

Edano said the government has continuously urged China to deal with the matter and noted that “a little bit of improvement” has been seen.

“Although it is a small improvement, Chinese authorities promised to strictly examine names of Japanese places and others. We will continue to press the Chinese government to manage the system rigorously,” Edano said.

Recently, bids for “Sanuki udon” noodles from Kagawa Prefecture, “Aomori Prefecture” and “Matsuzaka-gyu” beef from Mie were rejected in China.