People In Japan Don't Seem Thrilled With Kim Kardashian West's Kimono Underwear [Update]

Photo: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP (AP)
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Kim Kardashian West has not only launched a line of shapewear called “Kimono,” but has also reportedly filed a trademark for it in the US. Folks in Japan don’t exactly seem thrilled.

Update: July 3 - 5:00 am: Kim Kardashian West has decided to launch her shapewear under a new name. Original story continues below.

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There’s a fun fact, too, apparently.

Kardashian’s representative filed a trademark request for the word mark “kimono” for use on clothing, underwear, headwear, luggage, dog harnesses and...whips, among other items, including, wait for it, kimono. The application was filed on June 19. [Update June 26 - 9pm: Added “mark” to “word mark” above and edited article for greater accuracy and clarity.]

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But can she actually trademark a prevalent word like kimono in the United States? As patent attorney Kiyoshi Kurihara explains on Yahoo! News Japan, it is possible to trademark common nouns, but for specific products. For example, the word “apple” is trademarked for computers and phones. Kurihara points out that it would be possible to trademark the word “kimono” for computer software or furniture. The assumption is that the argument Kardashian’s lawyers could make is that the brand is based on her name or that her line of Kimono products are not actual kimono. That is at the center of people’s problem with the whole thing.

In Japan, kimono are special articles of clothing. For most people, they are worn only on important occasions, such as at weddings, graduations and funerals. They are passed down within families from generation to generation. The kimono is a special garment with deep, emotional meaning for many people in Japan. Plus, kimono are not underwear, but outerwear specifically designed to cover the body in seasonal patterns and motifs.

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So the idea that Kim Kardashian isn’t only using the word kimono for her underwear but also attempting to trademark it is obviously rubbing folks the wrong way—like really the wrong way.

As of publishing, the English word “kimono” is trending on Twitter in Japan, and the reaction has not been good, with people in Japan worrying that the brand will overshadow the word’s real meaning, causing confusion and misrepresentation, or expressing anger at her attempt to take the word for profit.

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About the author

Brian Ashcraft

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored five books, including most recently, Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Desirable Spirit.