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GENEVA (Kyodo) Japan rose to ninth place from 12th in applications for international trademarks in 2008, according to data released by a United Nations agency.

Japan filed 1,278 applications, up 29.9 percent from 2007, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The sharp rise reflects the fact that it signed on to the international trademark registration system relatively recently, in March 2000, business watchers said.

The system, called the Madrid system for the international registration of marks, was established in 1891 and is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The highest number of applicants seeking trademark protection for intellectual property were in China, followed by Russia, the WIPO said. China was the most heavily designated country the fourth straight year.

The data suggest that companies in many countries are particularly keen on intellectual property protection in these and other emerging economies.

The country that filed the highest number of international trademark requests was Germany. France ranked second and the United States third. Switzerland placed fourth, followed by Italy.

European businesses, including major German retailer Lidl AG, Swiss food giant Nestle and German chemicals producer Henkel AG, dominated the top 10 list of firms filing for protection.

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