Category Archives: BUSINESS

How are trademarks showing era name handled in Japan?

Happy New Year!

In 2019, there is a big event in Japan. The current crown prince ascends to the throne on May 1. In conjunction with that, Japan’s era name is also changed. Reportedly, the new name will be announced on April 1, one month prior to the enthronement, to ease the transition including necessary system update and other preparation.

From intellectual property perspective, names of goods or services that are just recognized as the era name are not allowed to register trademarks in Japan, because of lack of distinctiveness. The names combined an era name and other non-distinctive word (e.g. generic names) are also not allowed to register trademarks.

The current trademark examination guidelines only describes about the current era name (such as ‘HEISEI’). However, in the examination practices, the names showing former era names have been not allowed to register trademarks, when they are recognized as the era names.

Therefore, to clarify this, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) is making an amendment of the examination guidelines. JPO published a draft amendment of the guidelines on October 23 2018, in which an example of trademark lacking distinctiveness will be changed from the “current” era name to just an era name, to invite public opinion. It seems that the government is concerned about rash trademark application filings which include the new era name or the current era name after the announcement. In fact, in June 2018, the JPO made a statement that an era name is not distinctive, even if it is an old era name.

By the way, the use of trademarks showing era names is not prohibited, though they cannot be registered to enjoy the exclusive rights. In addition, you will be able to register trademarks, when they have acquired distinctiveness, as a …continue reading


Pensions boss Ministry of Health, Labor & Welfare set for split?


Rumours that the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare is targetted for breakup in an upcoming policy paper from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party broke cover in the Nikkei today.

The proposal is said to be part of a wider review of the structure of central government since it was reorganised two decades ago into 13 agencies and ministries. That reform included the amalgamation of the Ministry of Labor with the Ministry of Health & Welfare, a marriage which may now be dissolved.

In the intervening years the nw Ministry’s remit has expanded significantly so that it now covers job-based pension funds of all types.

As soon as the two were departments were conjoined the assets of many zaikei (savings accumulation) schemes, which had rested with the Ministry of Labour, were passed to SERAMA (The Smaller Enterprise Retirement Allowance Mutual Aid) in whose oversight the new Ministry plays a significant role.

The MoHLW then took over from the Ministry of Finance responsibility for the regulation of approximately 65,000 so-called tax-qualified plans (TQPS), re-establishing the 13,000+ of them which met its criteria into covenant (or “contract”) schemes and folding the rest into one of SERAMA’s many arms or dissolving them.

Next it assumed responsibility for the several giant civil service schemes as their benefits structure was reorganised and they agreed to follow the same asset allocation as the Government Pension Investment Fund — the world’s largest institutional investor — which is also under the MoHLW.

Small wonder that it is now said to be overburdened but the repeated scandals in which it has been involved since 2007 — when it could not match about 50 million pension records to their owners — mean that it attracts little pubic sympathy.

The future of the Pension Fund Association may also be up for review. Despite its name, the …continue reading


Digital Divide

Source: ACCJ Journal

As we begin another year, it’s time not only to reassess how we approach our work and personal lives, but also how technology is changing them.

Of course, this is nothing new. I got my first computer at the age of 10, in 1982, and devices such as smartphones and tablets have been rewriting the rules of communication and workflow for more than a decade. But the pace at which this technology infiltrates every aspect of life is growing ever more rapid, and I believe we are at the precipice of a generational chasm.

On one side of this chasm are those of us who grew up with desktop computers. On the other are children who are digital natives—and not just digital natives in the sense of being born into a world of computers, but a world in which the primary interfaces are touch and voice.

Apple Inc. has long promoted its iPad tablet as a computer replacement. Until this year, I have seen this as a tenuous argument. For those who merely browse the web and use email, this might work. For professionals, however, iPad and its iOS operating system have not offered the power or versatility required to get real work done. But this has changed with the latest generation of iPad Pro, which I am now using, and with the new release has come commentary from tech pundits that convinces me a massive shift is upon us.

This commentary can be summed up as, “But, on iPad, I don’t have this application or that menu option that I have on Mac.” This usually comes across as whining, but I get it. I feel the same way.

But why? I know it is because I have spent 36 years doing things with a keyboard, mouse, and interface first developed by Xerox …continue reading

Take a look at just about any science fiction film. They don’t use dollars, they use some universal currency that can be transferred at the click of a button. Today we’re seeing the emergence of digital currency. What are Bitcoins and are they the future. That’s one conversation taking place in Asia… now.

What are Bitcoins and are they the future?

Take a look at just about any science fiction film. They don’t use dollars, they use some universal currency that can be transferred at the click of a button. Today we’re seeing the emergence of digital currency. What are Bitcoins and are they the future. That’s one conversation taking place in Asia… now.

Saturday | April 11, 2015

I love traveling. I’ve been all across Asia and it’s my mission during the winter to vacate the cold and take refuge in Southeast Asia. But the thing I hate most about traveling is dealing with money.

I’m not talking about the expense of traveling, I’m talking about having to deal with switching currencies when crossing borders. 

Dollars to won to yen to pesos to… you get the idea.

What I loved about science fiction was this notion of a universal currency embraced by the world community. We’re a long way off from that; however we are seeing the emergence of various digital currencies.

The most famous of which is the bitcoin.

Joining me via Skype on this week’s Asia Now podcast is Chris Williams, Meetup organizer for the Seoul Bitcoin Center. We discuss what bitcoins are, their history, the controversy behind them, and where things might lead in the future.

After the podcast, please let me know what you think about bitcoins. Are they the currency of the future or just a fad?

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Source: ACCJ Journal


Outlook Positive, but Weaker

By Brandi Goode

The 26th Foreign Chambers in Japan Business Confidence Survey was conducted over 10 days at the end of October. About 300 responses were received, of which the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s members accounted for some 30 percent.

Forty percent of the respondents are from North America, and 60 percent from Europe. Most participating companies are involved in service industries or sales and trading, and have been in Japan for over 20 years.

Overall, foreign firms remain bullish about Japan’s economy, although they are less positive than in the previous two surveys. When asked about the economic forecast for the country over the next 12 months, growth was projected, but at a much lower level than in the previous survey in spring 2014. The index is now +.42, compared with +.70 in the spring.

Sales and trading businesses lost significant confidence, with the fall index (+.25) coming in more than 50 percent lower than the spring projection (+.63). Some 55 percent of respondents in this industry category projected “no change” or “some decline” in their operations over the next year.

The reported performance of companies surveyed continued to improve, but at a lower rate than …continue reading