The benefits of trademark registration for sole proprietors and freelancers in Japan

What you need to know: Information on Trademark Registration for Sole Proprietors and Freelancers in Japan

My side business is taking off and I’m about to leave and start my own business and run a website creation and maintenance related business as a sole proprietor.
I want to protect my brand name, but I’m not sure if I can register as a sole proprietor.
Hopefully it won’t cost too much.
You can apply to register a trademark as a sole proprietor, freelancer, or other individual.
You can register your trademark not only if you are actually using it, but also if you intend to use it in the future.

On this page, we provide:

Necessity for sole proprietors and freelancers to register a trademark

If you do not register your trademark, there are these disadvantages

I don’t want someone else to ruin my business that I’ve been preparing diligently for years.
If I can protect my business for 50,000 – 60,000 JPY, it’s a small price to pay.

Amazing DX offers services from 53,000 JPY to trademark application to registration.
Please check us out if you are a sole proprietor or freelancer.

*If you want to check how to register a trademark as an individual (necessary documents and procedures, etc.), please check the following.

Can I protect my business name with just a trade name?

A “trade name” is similar to a trademark.
A trade name is the name by which an individual merchant or company is identified in commerce and is registered with the Legal Affairs Bureau.

Registration of a trade name does not mean that you do not need to register a trademark.

Advantages of becoming a trademark owner as a sole proprietor

Once you have obtained trademark rights and your trademark is registered, there is no difference in the scope and validity of the trademark right itself, whether you are a company or a sole proprietorship.
Even if you are a start-up sole proprietor, your registered trademark will build up credibility for your business and provide strong protection for your business opportunities in the future.

Sole proprietors and freelancers can apply for a trademark application!

Anyone with an address, name, and application fee can register a trademark.
You do not need to be a Japanese citizen, nor do you need to be registered or otherwise registered before you can register your trademark.

In Japan, the first applicant to file an application for trademark registration with the Patent Office is entitled to obtain the right.
If you delay in filing an application for trademark registration, you may not be able to register your trademark.
Therefore, it is recommended to start the trademark registration process as soon as possible.

What kinds of things can be registered as trademarks?

For more information on what is eligible for trademark registration, please check following.

Points to keep in mind when using your personal name as a trademark

You may think, “I work under my real name, so I’ll apply for my own name as a trademark!
Please check the following.

In some cases, you may not be able to register your personal name, so please be sure to use your

It may be a good idea to register your personal name as your handle name, website name, business name, etc.

Points to keep in mind when registering a store name as a trademark

If you wish to apply for a store name for your actual store or online store as a trademark, please refer to this page.

You can register it even if you don’t use it yet!

I’m in the process of preparing to start a business, consulting with a tax accountant about the taxes and other aspects of opening a business.
I’m not actually using the trademark yet, but I’m not sure if I should proceed with the registration process.

It is possible to apply for a trademark even if you are not currently using the trademark.
You may receive a notice of reasons for refusal stating that “we cannot confirm that you are using the trademark,” but even in that case, if you plan to use the trademark in the next 5-6 years, you can respond by submitting a business plan.

Fees for trademark registration (fees, commissions, etc.)

For information on the approximate costs of filing and registering a trademark, please click here.

Costs can also be reduced by receiving subsidies from the national or local government.

Accounting for costs incurred in acquiring and maintaining trademark rights

Trademark rights are intangible fixed assets.
Please refer to the following for accounting treatment when filing tax returns, etc.

How long is the examination period?

Please refer to the following for information on the period of time from trademark application to registration (examination period).

Trademarks as property

Since trademark rights are property rights, they can be sold or transferred together with your business when you transfer your business.

In case of incorporation of a company (incorporation).

What if I file under my personal name and then “incorporate” in the future?

If you obtained your trademark rights as a sole proprietor and then established a corporation (such as a joint stock company or limited liability company), you may transfer your trademark rights to the corporation. In such a case, the procedure for changing the name to that of the corporation will be filed with the Japan Patent Office.

It is also possible to keep the trademark in the name of an individual and grant a license to use it to a corporation. However, you will need to go through the procedures with the JPO in any case, as you cannot oppose a third party without registering the non-exclusive right to use.

Are there any risks or disadvantages?

When a sole proprietor files a trademark application, there are the following risks.

There is a possibility that the application will be rejected.

A trademark application trademark cannot be registered unless certain registration requirements are met.

For example, a trademark cannot be registered if there is an identical or similar trademark used for identical or similar goods or services for which an earlier application has been filed. In determining whether goods or services are similar or dissimilar, a group of goods that share commonality in terms of production, sales, raw materials, quality, etc., or a group of services that share commonality in terms of means of provision, purpose, or place of provision are presumed to be similar goods or services and are assigned the same “similar group code” and are considered to be similar, and if the trademark to be registered is identical or similar, it is considered to be a trademark. If the trademarks to be registered are identical or similar, the registration will be refused.

The “similarity group code” can be found on the JPO website at “Examination Criteria for Similar Goods and Services” of the JPO website.

The similarity of trademarks is judged comprehensively based on the appearance of the trademark, the name of the trademark, and the concept of the trademark. Appearance refers to the external form that is recognized through the sense of sight, while designation refers to the sound that is naturally recognized in the trade, and conception refers to the meaning or connotation that is naturally recalled in the trade.

Other cases where a trademark lacks distinctiveness or is likely to cause misidentification of the quality of goods or services are also rejected as not satisfying the requirements for registration.

Thus, in order for a trademark to be registered, multiple registration requirements must be met, and specialized knowledge may be required.

Goods and services to be careful when registering as an individual

For example, if you file an application for such goods or services, you may receive a notice of reasons for refusal from the JPO, which states that the application cannot be registered as it is.

If the scope of your business expands after filing the application, you will need to re-file the application.

Even after the trademark has been registered, if the business of the sole proprietor is not completely covered by the designated goods and services, there may be a gap between the scope of the designated goods and services of the registered trademark and the actual scope of the business, resulting in the risk that the entire business is not comprehensively protected by the trademark right. This can lead to the risk that the entire business is not comprehensively protected by the trademark right.
If the designated goods or services are to be supplemented, a new application for trademark registration will be required, which will require more time, effort, and expense.

Your personal information will be published in the Gazette.

I want to register under a trade name (company name) but do I need to provide personal information such as name and address?
I’m a little worried that a list of personal information such as address and phone number will be made public.

The applicant’s name and address will be published in the Patent Gazette and will be publicly available.
To some extent this is unavoidable, since trademark rights are effective throughout Japan and people who want to use a trademark need to inquire with the right holder, etc.

A sole proprietorship is not a legal entity, and therefore applies for trademark registration as a natural person (individual).
If the applicant is a natural person (individual), the name should be the one on the family register.

The address on the residence certificate of a sole proprietor should be entered down to the number of the address, such as the prefecture, city, town, and street address.
Instead of listing a personal address, the location of the place of business or office, etc. (office) where the sole proprietorship is operated can be listed as the place of continuous residence for a certain period of time.

Incidentally, [telephone number] and [facsimile number] can be omitted and do not have to be listed.

It is recommended to consult a patent attorney to avoid the risks.

These risks can be reduced to some extent by consulting a patent attorney who is a trademark specialist.
For example, if the scope of your business is likely to expand in the future, you can ask your patent attorney to suggest designated products and services in anticipation of such expansion.
Also, depending on your business situation, you can discuss whether it is better to file as a sole proprietorship or after “incorporation”.

Okay, I’ll consult the experts and start my own business with no regrets!

Summary: Trademark registration is important even for sole proprietors and freelancers.

You may think of “trademark registration” as something that is done by large or small companies with lots of money.
However, it is precisely because we live in the “age of the individual” that trademark registration is important for sole proprietors and freelancers.

Do a trademark search before registering a trademark.

It is advantageous to file an application for trademark registration as soon as possible because of the “first-to-file” system.

Our trademark registration support service Amazing DX🄬 offers a unique free trademark search and retrieval system. For example, you can use Amazing DX🄬 to easily find out if an identical or similar trademark has been applied for before you.

Click here to sign up for Amazing DX for free

Amazing DX🄬 also allows you to easily select your designated goods and services online.

First, you can select a large number of related goods and services to search for, and after researching, you can easily search again by removing only those that have been marked with an X.

If you are not sure which product or service to choose, our trademark attorneys will be happy to answer your questions and assist you with your trademark application. Please feel free to contact us via chat.

Supervisor for the article:
大阪法務戦略部長 八谷 晃典
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