Regionally Based Collective Trademark System in Japan: Geographical Indicators by a Different Name or a Political Misdirection?

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6 Cybaris, issue 2, 2 (2015)


On April 6, 2006, Japan adopted a new, hybrid system to protect regional collective marks. In some ways, these act similar collective marks in the United States and, in some other ways, these marks act like geographic indications that the European Union favors. Although the JPO promises great economic gains by any association that takes advantage of these marks, it is not clear how or why that would happen. Rather, it appears that the Japanese central government (GOJ) is using the regional collective trademark system to gain political favor from an influential lobby: those that favor a decentralized political system focused on regionalism within Japan.

This rather new type of trademark is referred to as the “regionally based collective trademark system" 地域団体商標制度 “chiikidantaishohyoseido”. In Japan, this has been abbreviated to “Chiiki Brand System.” In Japanese, the initial two characters of this rather long name and the word for “region” is “chiiki.” Thus, the Chiiki Brand System was born.

In the end, this article demonstrates that the Chiiki Brand System is unlikely to produce the positive economic results that the JPO claims it will. Rather, the value of the Chiiki Brand System will mollify the political movement towards Japanese decentralization and internal regionalism. By creating the Chiiki Brand System, the GOJ appears to be responsive to movements that encourage the diffusion of government services (and the related industries that tend to follow) away from Tokyo to other parts of Japan. This is politically an astute direction. The Chiiki Brand System can play into the decentralization movement that pushes some politicians. However, upon closer analysis, it is apparent that the Chiiki Brand System will fail to encourage economic development and it is, in application, not a regional system of trademark generation, protection and enforcement.

Therefore, this article will show that what appears to be a simple statue to codify the protection of regional collective marks in a hybrid fashion akin to both collective marks from the United States and geographic indications from Europe is actually an attempt to be responsive to political movements focused on decentralization. As the promised economic benefits have not been recognized by any of the 10 most likely associations, and the “regional” part of the Chiiki Brand System is actually “national” and therefore not responsive to the political voices urging decentralization in the form of regionalism, the Chiiki Brand System may be a very expensive failure.