How to register a “Word Mark” in Japan

Can a trademark without logo data be registered?

I’ve decided on a name for my product!
I don’t have a specific logo, can I register it as a trademark in Japan?

If you don’t have a specific logo, you can use the “standard characters” system to file and register your trademark in Japan.
The “standard characters” system allows trademarks to be registered using a common typeface determined by the Japan Patent Office.

This is the first time I have heard of the “standard characters” system.
I would like to know more about what kind of system it is.

Trademarks can be applied for and registered in various forms, including letters, graphics, and combinations thereof.
In particular, did you know that Japan has a “standard characters” system?

This article will answer your questions about what standard characters are and whether it is better to register a trademark with standard characters or a logo trademark.

目次 Index
    1. Can a trademark without logo data be registered?
  1. What are “word marks” and “standard characters”?
    1. What is a “wordmark”?
    2. What are the “standard characters” system?
    3. Characters included in “standard characters”
    4. Difference from Logo Trademarks
  2. Should you apply in standard characters or as a logo trademark?
    1. Trademarks that are better filed in “standard characters”
    2. Trademarks that are better filed as a logo trademark
    3. Trademarks for which it is better to file both “standard characters” and a logo trademark (device mark)
  3. Register your word mark!

What are “word marks” and “standard characters”?

What is a “wordmark”?

The term “word mark” is not specifically defined by law, but is basically used to mean “a trademark consisting entirely of words.
In other words, it is a trademark that does not contain pictures, figures, decorations, designs, colors, etc.

Also, “!” and “@” are considered to be a type of word, and trademarks that include these symbols are also considered to be “word marks”.

Corresponding terms to “word marks” include “device marks” (i.e., trademarks consisting only of pictures or figures) and “logo marks” (i.e., trademarks combining words with pictures or figures, or trademarks with designs added to the words).

What are the “standard characters” system?

In relation to word marks, Japan has a “standard characters” system.

“Standard characters” are specific characters designated by the Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office.
Trademarks consisting solely of these specific characters may be applied for using the typefaces (fonts) provided by the JPO by stating so in the application.

In other words, if your trademark consists only of standard characters, you can apply for and register it in Japan without deciding on the typeface of your trademark or preparing the image data of your trademark by yourself.

Characters included in “standard characters”

Characters designated as standard characters are as follows;

Foreign characters other than Latin alphabets (simplified and traditional Chinese characters, Hangul, Greek alphabets, Cyrillic alphabets, etc.) are not included in the standard characters.

As for symbols, only some of them are included in the standard characters.
For example, a trademark containing “☆”, “*”, or “:” cannot be applied as a standard character.
In addition, “!” is a standard character, but “?” is not a standard character.

Furthermore, please note the following rules;

Reference: Japan Patent Office, “Designation of the Standard Characters referred to in Section 5(3) of the Trademark Act”

Difference from Logo Trademarks

When we speak of “logo trademarks,” we are generally thinking of those that contain both letters/characters and pictures/graphics in the trademark, or those that consist of “designed letters/characters only”.

In the case of the former, the trademark contains elements that cannot be expressed by letters/characters (i.e., pictures, graphics, etc.), so the difference from a wordmark is obvious.
It is also clear that since the trademark contains elements that are not letters/characters, it cannot be applied using the standard characters system.

So what about the latter, namely, a trademark that consists only of designed characters/letters?

If an application is filed in standard characters, the applied-for trademark will be represented by “a typeface prepared by the Japan Patent Office,” as described above.
In other words, if you file a trademark application in standard characters in Japan, you will not be able to specify the design of the characters/letters in the trademark (typeface, color, size of each character, etc.) yourself.
Also, since you do not designate the design of the trademark at the time of application, the design of the trademark is not included in your trademark rights even after the trademark is registered.

So you are saying that if I want to protect even the design of the words with my trademark right, I have to apply and register it as a logo trademark instead of a standard-characters mark?

That is correct.
However, even if registered as a logo trademark, if the design is outside the realm of common typefaces, the design itself may not be protected.

The key point to consider when deciding how to apply for a trademark is whether it is a relatively common typeface or a very specific design.

Should you apply in standard characters or as a logo trademark?

Trademarks that are better filed in “standard characters”

We recommend filing an application in standard characters if

*If you intend to use it as a logo later, but have not yet decided on a logo design now

The Japanese trademark system is based on the “first-to-file” principle (i.e., the first to file wins), so if someone else files a similar trademark application first and that trademark is registered, your trademark will no longer be available.
Therefore, if it takes time to complete the design of your logo, you should first file an application for just the words to reduce the possibility that someone else will get the rights first.

Trademarks that are better filed as a logo trademark

We recommend filing an application as a logo trademark if

*Trademarks with low “distinctiveness

“Distinctiveness” refers to the ability of a trademark to distinguish the goods or services bearing the trademark from those of others in the market for similar goods or services.

For example, if a trademark consists of words or figures that no one has used before for the goods or services, it is “highly distinctive” because it allows one to distinguish your goods or services from those of others at a glance.
On the other hand, a trademark that is too simple, such as “only one character,” a word that is customary in the industry, or a “combination of numbers and letters or symbols” that looks like a part number or model number, cannot be distinguished from the goods or services of others even if it bears that trademark. Therefore, it is “low distinctive“.

And “low distinctive” trademarks cannot be registered.

Therefore, as a way to increase the “distinctiveness” of a trademark, it is often necessary to add a graphic or design (i.e., a logo) to a trademark that was originally only words.

However, since a trademark that has not been used for a long period of time may have its trademark registration canceled, please be sure to register a trademark that you use or intend to use.

Trademarks for which it is better to file both “standard characters” and a logo trademark (device mark)

For example, please consider filing applications for both standard characters and a logo trademark if

*If the logo can be divided into graphic and text portions

In this case, if the application is filed and registered for the graphic and text portions respectively, use in the following patterns will all be considered use of a registered trademark.

This is the recommended application method for those who do not have a specific pattern of use or want to use the trademark in various forms.
Please refer to the above for whether the text portion should be standard characters or a logo.

However, a trademark is “one trademark, one application”.
If you apply for both a standard-characters mark and a logo trademark, you will have to pay the filing and registration fees for two applications!
Please take cost-effectiveness into consideration when deciding how to file!

Register your word mark!

In Japan, in addition to filing a trademark application with the image data of your trademark that you have prepared yourself, you can also file as “standard characters”.
You should decide the form of the application according to the design and use of your trademark.

With our online trademark search and application service “Amazing DX”, you can easily apply for and register your trademark whether it is a standard-characters mark, a logo, or a device mark.
In addition, since this service is a collaboration between AI and a patent attorney specializing in trademarks in Japan, you can also reduce the cost of applying for both a standard-characters mark and a logo/device trademark.

Amazing DX allows you to easily select your designated goods and services online.
You can easily select more goods and services to search first and then re-search after the search, removing only those that are marked with an X.

If you are not sure which goods or services to choose from, our attorneys are available to answer your questions. Please feel free to contact us via chat.

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

Let's start,
an easy trademark application in Japan!

For those who are worried about registering a trademark for the first time, we offer free advice tailored to your situation.