TOKYO, Nov. 16 – Lawmakers of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) formed a new working group under the team of Diet members who gathered to support the tea industry in Japan, the Parliamentary League on Tea Industry Promotion of LDP (Chairman: Hiroshi Moriyama). The move comes as some tea producers overseas are registering their products falsely using the names of Japanese tea producing region or selling fake products, while impeding Japan’s efforts to sell more tea products overseas. The new working group will study ways to eliminate such problems. At the first meeting held on November 15, 2019, there was a report on the infringement of the “Uji Tea” brand in China.
Yoko Kamikawa, a former Minister of Justice and a current head of the parliamentary league, chairs the working group. “Promoting export is very important for the future of the Japanese tea industry, and therefore, we must protect it by strategically protecting our intellectual properties. It’s an urgent task,” she said.
The meeting was attended by representatives of Kyoto Tea Cooperative as well as a long-established tea shop based in Uji City, Kyoto, Marukyu Koyamaen. They explained the damage they suffer in China from the trademark infringement. In China, members of the Kyoto Tea Cooperative have already registered the trade name “Uji.” However, there are 191 applications and registrations for trademarks “Uji XX” only for tea-related products and services. Some local producers sell tea leaves in fake packages not only in China but also in Europe, the U.S., and Southeastern Asia. “In Vietnam, some people are fooled to believe that Uji-cha is the brand name of Chinese tea,” and that’s a big obstacle in our export market,” the company noted.
Professionals including the Patent Agency said it’s necessary to demonstrate the Chinese government that “Uji” is the name of a famous place in Japan to prevent such false trade name applications. Some attendees in the meeting from LDP pointed out the need to approach more aggressively to the Chinese government, utilize the geographical indication (GI) protection system more effectively, and raise awareness about the problem in Japan.
The working group will have hearings with more people in the tea industry, work on possible measures, and ask the government to introduce such measures.