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Access to Innovation



Kikkoman’s Soy Sauce Bottle Registered as
3D Trademark


Kikkoman Corporation, a major producer of soy sauce in Japan, succeeded with its trademark application for its well-known sauce dispensing bottle. The JPO registered it as Trademark No. 6031041 on March 30, 2018. The dispenser is easily recognized by its shape, sort of an hourglass shape, and two small spout holes on either end of its plastic head. Kikkoman launched the bottle in 1961, and it proliferated globally during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It received a Good Design award in 1995 and has found its way into about one hundred countries.


The Japan Patent Office (JPO) has accepted applications to register three-dimensional trademarks since 1996, though it is not always easy to do this, notes patent attorney and IP consultant Kiyoshi Kurihara. In this case, the bottle was appropriately distinctive compared with competitors’ bottles. An example of another 3-D trademark registered by the JPO is the glass Coca-Cola bottle–but even that had to overcome an initial rejection. Other examples that Kurihara mentions were forced to incorporate writing before being registered. Interestingly, the bottle has already been registered as a 3D trademark in the United States and Europe.


Thus, even simple 3D objects, if they are unique forms well-associated with a particular product, may well become objects of trademark registration in Japan. Perhaps more overseas marketers will be protecting their 3-D intellectual property in Japan as trademarks as Kikkoman’s wordless design raises the profile of “a picture worth a thousand words.” For questions about a design versus a 3D trademark in Japan, feel free to contact us.


By Josiah T. Momose.

(The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For questions or inquiries, please contact us for more information.)



Kikkoman Corp. news release No.18025 from April 17, 2018. Image of dispenser comes from this page.


Kiyoshi Kurihara, “キッコーマン醤油容器が高いハードルを越えて立体商標登録 [Kikkoman’s soy sauce dispenser overcomes high hurdles to become a registered 3-D trademark],” on Yahoo! Japan, April 23, 2018.





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