(1) Introduction

“Food” is so close to our daily lives. We buy it at supermarkets or convenience stores each and every day. We eat it at restaurants. We even buy magazines or books to acquire knowledge about it.

From a trademark registration point of view, a considerable number of trademarks used for the goods “food” have been registered. Of the 45 classes of goods and services, Class 30 (coffee, seasonings, confectionery, etc.) was ranked second, and Class 29 (foods from animal sources, agricultural foods, etc.) eighth, on a list based on the number of trademarks registered over the decade from 2003 to 2012.

In general, “food” is goods that people eat, and those which animals eat are called “feed”. “Food” encompasses vegetables, fruits, etc., and also encompasses foods (processed foods) produced by processing vegetables, fruits, etc. “Food and beverage” generally encompasses various types of drink.

There are various types of business centered on food, such as producer, processors, couriers, wholesalers, and retailer. Use of trademarks in these businesses requires the registration of the trademarks in the respective business field.

This page is intended to provide those of you engaged in the food industry with useful information for trademark registration.

(2) Regarding “Processed Foods”

The trademark registration of a name for a “food product” first requires consideration of registration under any one of Classes 29 to 33. It is not allowed to designate vague goods “food”, and it is necessary to designate a specific name for a food good. Specifically, food goods are classified into various classes as follows:

  • Ham and bacon are classified under Class 29.
  • Sushi (small cakes of cooked rice served with raw fish), takoyaki (octopus dumpling) are classified under Class 30.
  • Seaweeds and corn are classified under Class 31.
  • Processed foods are classified under Class 29, and unprocessed foods are classified mainly under Class 31.

[Unprocessed Foods]

  • Fruits are classified under Class 31.
  • Vegetables are classified under Class 31.
  • Edible fishes and shellfishes (limited to those alive) are classified under Class 31.

[Processed Foods]

  • Processed fruits and frozen fruits are classified under Class 29.
  • Processed vegetables are classified under Class 29.
  • Edible fishes and shellfishes (excluding those alive) are classified under Class 29.

(3) Regarding Confectionery and Seasonings

Types of food such as confectionery, bread, and cakes belong to Class 30, and are assumed to be similar goods.

Trademarks for seasonings are also registered in Class 30. “Sugar”, “salt”, “vinegar”, “soy sauce”, and “miso (fermented soybean paste)”, etc. are also encompassed in Class 30. Vinegar and soy sauce are assumed to be similar goods, and sugar, salt, and miso are assumed to be dissimilar goods.

By the way, “mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)”, which is sold as a seasoning in Japan, is not classified under Class 30 but classified under Class 33, i.e. under the same class as alcoholic beverages.

(4) Regarding “Coffee” and “Coffee Beans”

The good “coffee” and the good “coffee beans” are classified under Class 30.

The good “coffee” encompasses coffee beverages, as well as “roasted coffee beans”. Since those coffee beans which are generally consumed by households are “roasted coffee beans”, “roasted coffee beans” is encompassed in the conception of the good “coffee”.

Meanwhile, the good “coffee beans” refers to unroasted “coffee beans”, or “coffee beans” per se that are yet to turn black, i.e. yet to be roasted.

Since the goods “coffee” and “coffee beans” are thus assumed not to be similar goods, it is necessary to be careful not to take them for each other.

(5) Regarding Restaurants and Collaborative Goods

There are various types of restaurant business, such as sushi restaurants, yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurants, and ramen (Chinese noodles [in soup]) restaurants. These businesses provide services that serve meals in restaurants, and are classified under Class 43.

Further, deliveries such as home-delivered pizzas and home-delivered sushi are also classified under Class 43, i.e. under the same class as services of restaurant businesses.

In recent years, goods have often been planned that involve collaboration with famous Italian restaurants or ramen restaurants, and convenience stores have been selling “pasta that is served by a restaurant so-and-so” and “cup ramen with a flavor produced by a restaurant so-and-so”.

While services of restaurant business are classified under Class 43, “pasta” and “cup ramen” are goods that belong to Class 30. Therefore, sales etc. of such a good with a trademark of an Italian restaurant or a ramen restaurant requires the registration of the trademark under Class 30.

(6) Regarding Wholesalers and Retailers

The 2006 revision to the law made it possible to protect trademarks that are used by wholesalers and retailers. For example, use of a trademark in a supermarket for store signs, shopping carts, and employees’ uniforms and name tags can be protected as services such as retail under Class 35.

Further, in recent years, many private brand products, uniquely developed by wholesalers and retailers, have been sold in stores. Since private brand goods are sold with a unique trademark on each good, they are not simply protected as services such as retail under Class 35, and it is necessary to register a trademark in each class of goods that is dealt with as private brand goods.

(7) Our Support for Those of You Engaged in the Food Industry

The food industry is an industry that is so close to our daily lives, and since there are so many trademarks registered in the food industry, the food industry can be said to be an industry in which conflicts are likely to occur.

We would always be pleased to assist those of you engaged in the food industry with protection of your intellectual properties. Please feel free to contact us for professional advice.

Supervisor of this article


Osaka Legal Strategy Department General Manager
Patent&Trademark Attorney
Specially Qualified Attorney For Infringement Litigation