“SAKE” To Be Recognized as a Designated Trademark Goods or Services

When refering to the term "Sake" the kanji 日本酒 will now be accepted as referring exclusively to the kanji 日本産の清酒. The meaning of the kanji representing the word "Sake", which is pronounced Nihonshu in Japanese, literally only means "Japanese alcohol". On the other hand, the kanji 日本産の清酒 means “Refined Rice Wine Made in Japan”. Because "Sake" is understood to refer to “Refined Rice Wine Made in Japan”, both will now be accepted as referring to “Refined Rice Wine Made in Japan” to describe this specific type of designated goods or services.

Until now, when the kanji for “Sake” was used in conjunction with the display of the designated goods or services, a secondary indication of the type of sake, i.e. alcohol, was required such as awamori, synthetic sake, shochu, shiro-zake, rice wine, naoshi, or mirin (Prior Ordinance of December 31, 2015) because the meaning of the expression Japanese alcohol was very ambiguous. In the past, examiners would issue refusals related to using these kanji because the intended type of “sake” was not known; and therefore, the display criteria for the geographical indication was not satisfied.

Under the new rules, “Sake” is deemed to have taken on the particular meaning of “Refined Rice Wine Made in Japan” and the other subtypes of Japanese alcohol will not be included in this meaning. Thus the kanji for “Sake” will no longer be used to refer to awamori, synthetic sake, shocu, shiro-zake, foreign made refined rice wine, naoshi, mirin, or unrefined rice wine. This rule will be applicable to all pending trademark registration applications.