Can fashion designers register their names as trademarks in Japan?

One interesting case from Japan regarding the possibility for registration of personal names as trademarks.

Kabushiki Kaisha Soloist, founded by the well-know fashion designer Takahiro Miyashita applied for the following trademark TAKAHIROMIYASHITATheSoloist for classes 14, 18 and 25.

The Japanese Patent Offices refused to registered this sign based on absolute grounds – name of any person cannot be registered as a trademark for the purpose of protecting personal rights of a living individual.

According to the Office, it was clear that other people in Japan have the same name, so its monopolization was not been possible. The only exception from this rule is if the applicant provide the Office with a written consent from all people who bear the same name. That wasn’t happen.

In the appeal the IP High Court upheld this decision. The fact that the trademark application includes the name of the company was not enough to overcome the law prohibition in the case at hand.

In Europe, personal names are possible to be registered as trademarks, for example, but in many cases the applicant should prove acquired distinctiveness among consumers in order to succeed.

Source: Masaki MIKAMI (Marks IP)