On 1 March 2017 Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced that it had granted the first trademark approval for a color palette. Japan’s first color trademarks go to the humble pencil eraser MONO from Tombow and the convenience store chain 7-Eleven. The Japan Patent Office started accepting color trademark applications in April of 2015. Learn more about the two First-Mover.
From April 2015 on, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) began accepting application for the registration of “new type” trademarks, including trademarks consisting only of colors.
“A new type of trademark is expected to play a major role in corporate brand strategy as a means of disseminating various brands other than languages“, explained Sunao Sato, director of JPO’s trademarks division.
Now, on February 28, 2017, Tombow Pencil Co.,Ltd. and 7-Eleven, Inc. are the first two companies to receive trademark protection for their Color Marks in Japan. Tombow’s Mark was for the blue, white and black-striped branding of the MONO Eraser, one of Japan’s most iconic stationery items originally released in 1969 by Tombow. The other approval went to convenience store 7-Eleven Japan with its white, orange, green and red color palette.
Both companies now have the exclusive right to use these color combinations for the packaging and branding of their products. They can prohibit others the use of their trademarks if they do not have the permission to do so.
Already more than 1500 “new type” Trademark applications
An article on the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) website states that, as of Feb. 20, 2017, applications for “new type” (sound, movement, hologram, position and color only) trademark registrations total around 1,500, with more than 200 applications other than color only trademarks already having been registered.
If a simple calculation of the rate of registrations is made, around 53% of movement trademarks and around 53% of hologram trademarks are granted registrations – over half. Meanwhile only 21% of sound trademarks and 7% of position trademarks are granted registrations. Until now, there have been zero cases of registrations of color-only trademarks in the two years since they were introduced. There is a high bar for notoriety regarding color-only trademarks and so it is particularly difficult for such a trademark to be registered.
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Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry – Press Release / Newsletter of HARAKENZO World Patent & Trademark