Posted by Laura Ercoli on Wednesday January 2nd, 2019

EU-Japan trade agreement in force from 1 February 2019: what it means for intellectual property

The EU-Japan trade agreement is set to come into force on 1 February 2019 bringing, inter alia, enhanced protection for intellectual property rights in Japan including the automatic recognition of EU GIs and PDOs.

On 12 December 2018 the European Parliament voted its final approval of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (“the trade agreement” in the following). The trade agreement has now been ratified by both parties’ parliaments, and is set to enter into force on 1 February 2019.

Giappone IGP DOP

Maneki-neko, the cat with a raised paw beckoning buyers, welcomes the finalisation of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

The trade agreement creates an open trading zone covering 635 million people and almost a third of the world’s total GDP.

The Intellectual Property Rights chapter of the EU-Japan trade agreement builds on TRIPs provisions and is based on European Union standards for protection and enforcement.

Protection in Japan will improve in particular for copyrights and trade secrets. The trade agreement also includes specific provisions on the duration of pharmaceutical patents as well as on the protection of trademarks. Product appearance will be protected under unregistered design or unfair competition rules.

High standard civil enforcement rules are introduced, as well as rules on border measures concerning imports, exports and transit.

Notably, the trade agreement provides for the automatic protection in Japan of over 200 European Geographical Indications (GIs) and Protected denominations of origin (PDOs) for agricultural products (see list here) and for wine, spirits and other alcoholic beverages (see list here).

The list is open to future additions.

Under the agreement, protection for GIs and PDOs extends to conflicts with later trademarks. The Japanese Intellectual Property Office will refuse trademark applications conflicting with GIs and PDOs registered in the EU and recognised in Japan under the EU-Japan trade agreement.

Co-existence rules are provided for trademarks filed in Japan before the entry into force of the new agreement.

The finalisation of the EU-Japan trade agreement means that European GIs and PDOs will soon be protected by bilateral agreements in the three major markets of the Far East: in June 2017 an agreement with China was reached for recognition of 100 European GIs and PDOs, while a similar deal with South Korea has been in force since 2012.

Key aspects of the EU-Japan trade agreement other than those concerning intellectual property include:

  • elimination of duties on many cheeses (which currently are taxed at nearly 30%) as well as on wine exports (currently at 15% on average);
  • the EU will be allowed to substantially increase beef exports to Japan, and additional opportunities will be opened for export of pork products;
  • removal of tariffs on industrial products in sectors where the EU is very competitive, such as cosmetics, chemicals, textiles and clothing;
  • commitment of Japan to international car standards, with the result that EU exports of cars to Japan will be made significantly easier;
  • opening of Japanese services markets, in particular for financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications and transport;
  • opening access for EU companies to the large procurement markets of 54 large Japanese cities; removing obstacles to procurement in the economically important railway sector.

Related content

Flash news – EU-Japan trade agreement opens markets, enhances IP rights protection
Flash News – 100 European geographical indications to be protected in China by end 2017
Flash News – EU court rules in conflict between geographical indication and trademark  in Toscoro
Information – Traditional origin agrifood products

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