Friday, August 29, 2003

Lost & Found

Have you ever lost your belongings and had them returned to you? Most newcomers to Japan are surprised when, after leaving a bag on the train or taxi, get a call from the station or taxi call center asking you to retrieve the bag at their office, or sometimes they will even deliver it to you.
Now there is a new service to make returning lost property more efficient. A company called "Hoo", which is funded by the president of Sokuhai (speedy delivery service by motorcycles), will start a lost-and-found property retrieval support service.
The system is that you buy stickers printed with a 10-digit ID. A sticker pack costs JPY950. You then put the stickers on your belongings, such as your note PC, wallet, mobiles, etc. Thereafter, anyone finding your lost property can call Hoo and the company's call center tracks you down via the ID sticker.
There are two versions of the service: one offering a reward of JPY500, and the other one which has no reward. The company hopes to sign up 200k users by the end of this year.
Hmmm, I don't know what to think about this business plan. It seems to me that people return lost property out of a sense of good will and civic duty, not because they can get a JPY500 reward. Does this new system mean that Japan is losing its moral virtues? Certainly, making a business out of good deeds does not look quite right to me.
Do you think it will be successful?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Trademark

You might think that the term "Hanshin Victory" is a prediction of success by the Hanshin Tigers in the Japanese baseball league. But in fact is a legal challenge to the team rather than a desirable outcome of their winning ways.
In fact, the term "Hanshin Yusho" (Hanshin Victory) is actually a trademark registered by a man in Chiba back in February 2002. Apparently the man wanted to use licence the term for use on clothing, toys, goods, etc. The net result is that the Tigers can't use the term unless they also take out a licence from the current owner.
Actually, it must have been somewhat shocking to the Hanshin Tigers management when they found out that their own application was rejected on the grounds that the "same logo has been already filed." It seems that the Japanese Patent office has a trademark system similar to that used for Web domains, which is "First come, first served." So, even if you don't actually use the term or logo, you can still own and control it.
Although the Chiba man's claim is that "Hanshin" simply means the Hanshin region, which is the area around Osaka and Kobe, and "Yusho" simply means victory -- even to the most uninformed person, it is obvious that he is trying cash in on the baseball team's "Hanshin Yusho". It's a mystery to me why the Japan Patent Office approved this.
From the news I've been hearing, it looks like the Chiba guy will eventually transfer ownership of his trademark to the Tigers, but I wonder how much they'll have to pay for it. Actually, the same guy also filed for trademarks on a number of other terms, including "Kyojin Yusho" (Giants Victory)" and "Anti Kyojin". Such a smart guy...! Reminds me of the old dotcom days!