To those in the food industry

(1) Introduction

To those in the food industry

As you know, food products have various shapes - round, square, cone and so forth- and they are sold in packaging with various colors and innovative shapes. Some well-known food products are recognized with their shapes or packaging alone without being recognized by their names. Such shapes and packaging designs for the food products are protectable with design rights.

"HARAKENZO more " hope this web page benefits those who consider filing design applications for shapes and packaging for the food products.

(2) Designs for food products

The appearance of a food product is just as important as its flavor. Sales of the food product may depend on how delicious the food product looks. There are two categories that could be protected by the design rights in the food industry: a design for food product itself and a design for food packaging. In order to be protected by the design right, a design should be “the shape, patterns or colors, or any combination thereof, of an article, which creates an aesthetic impression through the eye.” Further, the design should have “industrial applicability.” Accordingly, if the food product cannot be mass-produced, the food product cannot be protected by the design right.

① Design for food product itself

A design for a food product itself protects a design related to the food product itself. The following examples are designs for food products which are registered in Japan (including a skewered squid snack, a chocolate, and a solid curry roux having a unique shape).

★ Skewered squid snack

Group A (Processed Foods and Favorite Goods)
(YOTCHAN FOODS CO., LTD., Design Registration No. 1224266)

★ Chocolate

Group A (Processed Foods and Favorite Goods)
(Godiva chocolatier Inc., Design Registration No. 1484401)

★ Solid curry roux having unique shape

Group A (Processed Foods and Favorite Goods)
(S & B Foods Inc., Bespack co., Ltd, Design Registration No. 1452329)

② Packaging designs

In addition to the shape of the food product, packaging for the food product is also protectable by a design right.

Specific examples include packaging for instant noodles, packaging for seasonings, and packaging for natto (fermented soybeans). Not only a unique shape of packaging, but also a common shape of packaging is protectable by a design right if a design for the packaging is regarded as innovative and unique.

Further, it is possible to seek more thorough protection by obtaining both a patent right and a design right as the packaging for soy sauce cited below (this packaging for soy sauce is protected by the patent right for its feature which allows the soy source contained in the packaging to be remained fresh, and the packaging is also protected by the design right as a packaging container).

★ Instant noodle packaging

Group F (Office Supplies and Merchandising Goods)
(SANYO FOODS. CO., Ltd., Design Registration No. 1443372)

★ Soy sauce packaging

Group F (Office Supplies and Merchandising Goods)
(YUSHIN. CO., LTD., Design Registration No. 1377043)

Group F (Office Supplies and Merchandising Goods)
(Kikkoman Corporation, Design Registration No. 1443689)

★ Natto (fermented soybeans) packaging container

Group F (Office Supplies and Merchandising Goods)
(Mizkan Co., Ltd. Design Registration No. 1355159)

(3) Measures against imitation products of food products and packaging

In recent years, not only Japan-born characters and brand-name products, but also Japanese food products and packaging are imitated increasingly in foreign countries. In many cases, shapes of the Japanese food products are imitated, but there are also many cases where packaging and labels of the Japanese food products are counterfeited and a food product whose content is entirely different from that of the Japanese food product is sold with imitated packaging and labels. In fact, food products made in Japan have high quality and thus they are very popular in other countries. As a result, the sales of food products would increase if they have an indication of "made in Japan" regardless of their original country, or have imitated designs for Japanese food packaging.

In many cases, quality of food products which are made by imitating the Japanese food products and their packaging is inferior to “genuine” food products sold in Japan. Such inferior food products can lower reputation of the whole Japanese food production companies. In order to avoid such a risk, it is important to protect both food products and packaging with design rights. Further, design rights are also useful to prevent imitation products made outside Japan from appearing on the Japanese market.

(4) Japan finally joins the Hague Agreement (Geneva Act)! What is the Hague Agreement?

Good news for those who considers filing design applications in Japan and abroad but worried about costs and time. Last year, Japan joined the international design protection agreement (Geneva Act). Under this agreement, it becomes possible to seek protection in several countries by filing a single application.

The Geneva Act is the international agreement which was established to allow an international design registration to be made easier. Under this Act, with a single international design application, it is possible to seek protection in several member countries designated at the time of filing the application. Japan concluded this agreement in 2015, and 49 countries and government organizations are now members of the agreement. Under this agreement, filing an international design application becomes easier, and this would be very useful if you consider, for example, expanding your business outside Japan. We recommend registering your design internationally under the Hague Agreement to those who are willing to expand their brands or to export their products overseas.

(5) "HARAKENZO more " support those in the food industry

"HARAKENZO more " have established a system to provide thorough support for protecting intellectual properties of those in the food industry. Please feel free to contact us.