Is it possible for a simple combination between letters and numbers to be a trademark in Japan?

Masaki Mikami reports about an interesting case regarding the hurdles for registration of simple combinations between letters and numbers as trademarks in Japan.

Fette Compacting GmbH filed an international trademark for “FS12” designating Japan. The mark was for class 7 – compression tools (parts of machines for the pharmaceutical industry, chemical industry, food industry, and metal industry) for producing pellets and tablets; die-table segments (parts of machines for the pharmaceutical industry, chemical industry, food industry, and metal industry) for rotary presses.

The Japan Patent Office refused to register this sign based on absolute grounds. The trademark law in the country prohibits registration of simple signs as trademarks.

The decision was appealed but the Board of Appeal confirmed it. The sign at hand represents a simple combination between two letters and two numbers. This cannot serve as a source of trade origin because it can be perceived by the consumers as a sign for code, model, value etc.

Source: Masaki Mikami, Marks IP Law Firm.