First-to-file, first-to-register system
Japanese Patent Law follows the “principle of registration”. In other words, even if a trademark is currently not in use (be it in Japan or overseas), it can be registered if the applicant intends to use it in the future and if certain conditions are met.
Accordingly, it is important, when planning an extension of business or exports into Japan, to study beforehand the possibility to file the trademarks intended for use on this occasion.
The “principle of use” can be perceived as the opposite to the principle of registration. In a system following the principle of use, a trademark cannot be registered if it is not currently in use.
Another existing system is the “first-to-file system”. Under this system, in the case that two applications for identical or similar trademarks designating identical or similar goods or services are in competition against each other, the trademark filed earlier will be registered in priority.