Australian Wagyu Forum

Kobe Beef Applies for ‘appellation style’ GI protection in Japan – September 2015

2 Sept 2015 – Washington DC, USA

The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (GAIN Report JA5031) reported that the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) received a Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association application for the establishment of a Kobe Beef Geographical Indication (GI) on August 21, 2015, under the provisions of a new, June 2015 Japanese Act for the Protection of Designated Agricultural, Forestry and Fishery Products and Foodstuffs.

According to USDA, the Japanese Govt is not permitting the registration of “wagyu” as a GI, as wagyu refers to a group of cattle breeds rather than a specific product from a specific geographic location.

As far back as 2007, the US Govt advised MAFF that it opposed the granting of GI status to ‘wagyu’ as wagyu products were genetically rather than geographically defined, and not limited to Japanese production.

Kobe Beef is exclusively from fullblood Japanese Black wagyu cattle bred and fed only in Hyogo Prefecture. The Kobe GI application will take at least three months to process.

The Government of Japan established the new GI system as a protection for what are perceived to be unique Japanese agricultural brands. Japanese GIs successfully registered under the local Act are not enforceable overseas, but successful applicants are seen as likely to use the process as a stepping stone to a quest for international GI recognition.

The modified Japanese GI regime is also more compliant than earlier trademark protections in the context of international GI regulation, giving new Japanese GI’s greater prospects for global endorsement.