Japanfs new law on the protection of geographical indications for agricultural produce and food

                                                      Teiji Takahashi (Japan)

 On 18 June 2014, the Parliament of Japan passed the Law on the protection of geographical indications for agricultural produce and food. The Law will be enforced at the middle of 2015.   

Accordingly, Japan has provided necessary legislations for the protection of geographical indications on agricultural produce and food as well as on wine, sake and shotyu. In 1994  National Tax Agencyfs official announcement was already adopted for the protection of geographical indications for wine , sake and shotyu.

These schemes for the geographical indication are in principle sui-generis system, One of remarkable points of the new Law is that the coexistence of geographical indications with trademarks is allowed for agricultural produce and food..  .

Outline of the Law on the protection of geographical indications for agricultural produce and food.

I Title and Objectives of the Law

1.      Title of the Law

Law on protection of names of specified agricultural, forestry and fishery produce and food

2.       Objectives

The Law aims to protect the interest of producers of specified agricultural, forestry and fishery products and food (agricultural produce and food), based on the TRIPS Agreement, and to contribute to the development of agricultural, forestry and fishery industries and related industries, as well as, to protect the interest of consumers.

II Definitions

(1)    Agricultural produce and food means the following products, excluding alcohol beverages, drugs and cosmetics

EAgricultural, forestry and fishery produce, only for human consumption, and food and beverage

(2)    Specified agricultural produce and food means,

Agricultural produce and food whose production area is specific place, region or state, and its given quality, reputation or other characteristics is essentially attributable to the production area.

(3)   
Geographical indication means,

Indication of the name of specified agricultural produce and food

(4)    Group of producers means,

Group composed of direct member producers or indirect member producers,
and
as defined by the official note of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries( Ministry of Agriculture).

(5)      Production process control means the following activities conducted by the group of  producers.

EEstablishing and reviewing specification of agricultural produce and food which defines items referred to Number VI-2 (2)-(7)

EExecuting the production process control such as necessary guidance and inspection, in view of assuring that the members of the group are in compliance with the specification in producing agricultural produce and food.

III Geographical indication

1.         Member producers of the registered group of producers and any person who directly or indirectly receives the agricultural produce and food from the member producers may indicate the geographical indication on the agricultural produce and food which has been produced or has been received, or on its packaging or container, when such agricultural produce and food is the registered specified agricultural produce and food.

2.         Except 1 above and cases referred to the following, anybody is not allowed to indicate the geographical indication or a similar indication on the agricultural produce and food (or its packaging and container) which belongs to the same category of products as the registered specified agricultural produce and food, or on the processed agricultural produce and food whose main ingredient is the same category of products as the registered specified agricultural produce and food.

(1)      In the case that the geographical indication or similar indication is indicated on the agricultural  produce and food or its packaging or container which has been processed using registered specified agricultural produce and food as the main ingredient.

(2)      In the case that the owner of the registered trademark related to the application for the registration prior to the registration of specified agricultural produce and food, or person who has the right to use this trademark, uses the trademark for the designated commodity or service related to the registered trademark.

(3)      In the case that the person, who has the right to use the trademark, prior to the registration of specified agricultural produce and food, uses the trademark on the commodity or service related to this trademark.

(4)      In the case that a person who has used same or similar name as the geographical indication on the same category of products as the specified agricultural produce and food or on its packaging or container , including a successor of this business, use this indication, or in the case that a person who directly or indirectly receives the agricultural produce and food from the person referred above use this indication.

IV Registered mark

1.         Member producers of the group of producers and any person who directly or indirectly receives  the agricultural produce and food from member producers shall place the registered mark on the registered specified agricultural produce and food, or on its packaging or container, when the geographical indication is indicated on the agricultural produce and food, or on its packaging or container.

2.         Except the case referred to 1 above, anybody shall not place the registered mark or similar mark on the agricultural produce and food, or on its packaging or container.

V Order of actions

The Minister of Agriculture may order the persons who are not in compliance with the following dispositions to take necessary action referred as follows.

(1)    NumberIII-2 (Prohibition of indication of geographical indication)

To eliminate the indication of the geographical indication or similar indication.

(2)    Number IV-1 ( Obligation of placing registered mark)

To place the registered mark

(3)    Number IV-2 (Prohibition of placing registered mark)

To eliminate placing registered mark

VI  Registration

1.         The group of producers which is engaged in the production process control may apply for the  registration of the specified agricultural produce and food, where the specification made by the group is related to the specified agricultural produce and food.

2.         The group of producers which has the intention of applying for the registration shall submit the application describing the requirements referred to the following.

(1)  Name and address of the group of producers and name of its representative(2)  Category of products related to the agricultural produce and food
(3)  Name of the agricultural produce and food
(4)  Place where the production of the agricultural produce and food is made(5)  Characteristics of the agricultural produce and food
(6)  Method of production of the agricultural produce and food
(7)  Items other than those referred to (1)-(6) which are determined by the official note of the Ministry of Agriculture.

3.         In the application form, the specification and the regulation on the production process control shall be attached.

VII  Making the application public

1.         The Minister of Agriculture shall make public the items referred to Number VI-2 (1)-(7), when he received the application, except when he refuses its registration.

2  The Minister of Agriculture shall make the application , the specification and the regulation on the production process control to be available for reading by the public during 2 months from the date of making the application public.

VIII  Submission of opinions

Anyone may submit its opinion to the Minister of Agriculture in respect of the application for the registration, within 3 months from the date of making public the application. 

XI  Execution of registration

1.         The following items shall be registered in the registry of specified agricultural produce and food.

(1)    Number of the registration and the date of registration
(2)    Items referred to VI 2 (2)-(7)
(3)    Items referred to VI 2 (1)

2.         The Minister of Agriculture shall inform the applicant group of producers of the registration,

 and make the public announcement on items to be determined by the official note of the Ministry of Agriculture.

XII Refusal of the registration

1.       The Minister of Agriculture shall refuse the registration in the following cases.

(1)    When the name of agricultural produce and food is generic , and the name can not identify the place of production and given quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to the place of production.

(2)       When the name is identical or similar to the name of registered trademark in respect of the applied agricultural produce and food or similar commodities or service related to the commodity.

2.         (2) above is not applied, when the group of producers which is the owner of the registered trademark applies the registration for the agricultural produce and food whose name is identical or similar to the name of the trademark.

XV  Amendment of registration of the specification

The registered group of producers shall apply for the amendment of the registration ( to follow the procedure of the registration laid down in VI), when it amends the specification ( in relation to items referred to VI 2 (3)-(7)).

XVII  Revision of the regulation on production process control

The registered group of producers shall submit a report to the Minister of Agriculture , prior to the revision of the regulation, when the group of producers intends to revise the regulation.

XX  Order of correction measures

The Minister of Agriculture may order the group of producers to amend the specification or the regulation on production process control and to take other necessary measures, when member producer/s are not in compliance with the provisions referred to III 2, IV or V.

XXIII  Collection of report and inspection

The Minister of Agriculture may ask groups of producers, their employees or persons concerned for making a report on their activities. Or, the Minister may order its officials to inspect on site their activities, agricultural produce and food, ingredients, documents and others.

XXIV  Requests to the Minister of Agriculture

Anybody may ask the Minister of Agriculture to take an appropriate measure, according to the procedures set out by the official note of the Ministry of Agriculture, when he considers that there is a fact of violation of the disposition of III 2 or IV.