(1) Introduction

Recent years have seen remarkable evolution of video games: In the age of Space Invaders , many people put a coin into a game machine slot at a coffee shop to enjoy the game. After household game consoles such as Family Computer were brought into the market, increasing numbers of people, kids and adults alike, started playing video games at home.

All sorts of game consoles have been launched since then. Stationary game consoles such as PlayStation and Wii have even made it possible to play online games (which allow you to enjoy yourself with people from all across the world over a network.

As video games run on mobile phones (social network games) are also becoming popular, there are currently a number of pieces of hardware for playing video games.

As game consoles have changed over time as above, the Trademark Law continues to increase its list of designated goods as example subjects of protection accordingly. The law is, however, still unable to fully cover new forms of video games.

"HARAKENZO more " dedicate this page to offering those engaged in the video game industry some advice on how to register trademarks suited for the rapidly changing video game industry.

(2) Stationary and Portable Game Consoles

Household game consoles are called stationary game consoles, and include such game consoles as Family Computer, PlayStation, and Wii.

Game consoles that you can carry are called portable game consoles, and include Nintendo DS and PlayStation VITA.

When you register a trademark for a game console in Japan, the registration falls under Class 28 regardless of whether it is a stationary game console or a portable game console: Stationary game consoles belong to the category "household television game consoles", whereas portable game consoles belong to the category "hand-held liquid crystal display game consoles".

Video game software (that is, a ROM cassette or a video game cartridge) run on such game consoles needs to be designated under Class 9.

Example: Class 9, programs run on household television game consoles, electron circuits or CD-ROMs storing programs run on hand-held liquid crystal display game consoles

(3) Online Games

Online games can be designated as a service under Class 41. This is not very well-known as there is no specific description of it in the Japanese examination guidelines for similar goods and services.

Specifically, online games need to be designated as follows:

Example: Class 41, Providing online games

The service "Providing online games" is presumed to be similar to "Providing amusement facilities" under Class 41, that is, similar to the service "Providing karaoke facilities" or "Providing billiard rooms" under the concept of "Providing amusement facilities". This is because "Providing online games" actually has something in common with the above two services: It is a service of providing a place for play (in a virtual, online space).

"Providing online games" under Class 41 is presumed to be dissimilar as goods/services from "Programs run on household television game consoles" (game software) under Class 9.

If, for instance, you are providing game software for an online game, you might want to consider designating it both as goods under Class 9 and as services under Class 41.

(4) Social Network Games

In recent years, more and more people have started downloading video game programs to devices such as smart phones and mobile phones and playing the games on those devices. Such games are called social network games.

A social network game needs to be registered as "game programs for mobile phones" under Class 9. Also, if the game can be played simultaneously by two or more people over the Internet, you might want to consider designating it as a service under Class 41 because it can be regarded as an online game.

(5) Goods Related to Video Games

Various goods (such as mobile phone straps, dolls, and calendars) are often sold as related to video games. Those goods are individually classified under their respective categories.

Class 9: mobile phone straps,
Class 16: calendars,
Class 28: dolls, toys

Goods are often protected by copyright. However, character names, for example, are basically not a subject of copyright protection. We recommend registering trademarks for them.

(6) Our Support for Those Engaged in the Video Game Industry

Video games can now be distributed across the world over the Internet. We expect more opportunities to register trademarks not only in Japan but also in foreign countries where the video game is distributed.

"HARAKENZO more " would always be pleased to assist those of you engaged in the video game 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