You studied political science and got your start as a sales representative – how did your early education and career affect your approach to trademark law?
I learned that political science deals with the balance of power, and how people make irrational decisions under certain circumstances. As a sales representative, I have also noticed that sometimes people put emotion before reason. This experience helps me to settle trademark related negotiations and understand people’s decision making processes.
What with NFTs, the pandemic, the metaverse, we seem to be living through a period of disruption in the trademark world. What advice can you give to fellow practitioners looking to future-proof their practices?
The fields of trademarks, the metaverse and NFTs have truly opened up new possibilities. I do not yet know where they will take us, but I am excited to be a part of it. People are buying and exchanging digital clothing for their avatars in the online space, and concerts are being organised by well-known musicians. There will always be trademark issues wherever business is conducted. Trying to keep up with the times, I recently purchased a pair of goggles to see the 3D metaverse. Thinking outside of the box is sometimes more important than solely focusing on traditional work.
The current legal services landscape is competitive and high-quality legal work is considered a minimum. How do you add value for clients in this environment?
We will continue to provide value-added services in areas where communication and experience are critical, such as the development and implementation of trademark strategies. Even though it might sound easy in theory, it is difficult to meet clients’ needs in practice. To stay competitive, we have to continuously improve ourselves.
As we start to emerge from the pandemic, what covid-prompted changes and restrictions are you looking forward to saying goodbye to, and which business developments of the last two years are here to stay?
Although mask requirements have saved me from catching a cold in the past two years, I am ready to say goodbye to it! Even after the pandemic is over, I still believe the development of web conferencing tools, such as Teams, will still play a very important role. Such technology allows us to communicate while seeing the other person’s face and inferring their emotions, but most importantly, it is easy to get started. Now that Teams is being used even during court proceedings in Japan, we realise that a significant portion of meetings can be conducted online. Having said that, I still think it is important to meet face-to-face to build and strengthen relationships. I look forward to spending time with friends at INTA over a few drinks.
What are the main challenges that Japanese companies face when it comes to trademark protection?
After colour trademarks became registrable in 2016, a large number of companies applied for their corporate colours as a way to protect their corporate identities. Registration, however, has proven to be extremely difficult due to the high standards of the secondary meaning required by the Japan Patent Office. Only nine registrations have been made so far, all involving colour combinations of two or more colours. Unfortunately, all applications for a single colour mark per se have been rejected.
Kumpei Kogure is the founder of BORDERS IP. He started his career as a sales representative to outside customers (companies) at a major department store in Japan and then moved into the IP field as a patent and trademark attorney. Mr Kogure has over 15 years of experience covering all aspects of trademark practice, including trademark search, prosecution, opposition, cancellation and negotiation for domestic and foreign clients.