Japan IP Development

In Japan, all patent applications are announced within 18 months of submission. After the patent is approved, it is valid for 20 years, starting from the date of application. In addition, Japan's Utility Model Law (amended in the April 2005 Anti-Unfair Competition Law) also allows for the registration of utility models. The utility model has a protection period of 10 years. The design has a protection period of 15 years, starting from the date of registration of the design.
The number of patent & utility models applications remained unchanged at a high level, over 400,000, until 2006. The number had remained around 340,000 since 2009, and it became lower in 2015, which was 325,581. The number of patent applications filed by universities including approved TLOs (technology licensing organizations) marked a slight increase in 2014 compared to the previous year. The University of Tokyo, Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology are the top 3 universities in terms of the number of patent registration. Compared with the other 4 major IP Offices, namely the State Intellectual Property Office of the P.R.C. (SIPO), The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), European Patent Office (EPO), JPO experienced gradual and slight decreases from 2009 to 2013 and ranked the third among the five offices.The number of Japanese invention patent applications has decreased year by year since 2006, and the number of authorizations has increased year by year.
To build a more user-friendly IP system, Japan has revised its Patent Act. On March 11, 2014, the Cabinet approved the Bill for the Act on the Partial Revision of the Patent Act and Other Acts. This Act was passed into law on April 25, 2014, was promulgated as Act No. 36 on May 14 and went into effect on April 1, 2015. Under the revised Patent Act, following changes would happen.
a) The establishment of new Patent Opposition System would enable patent rights to be granted earlier and the demandant is limited to the interested person in the trial for patent invalidation system;
b) The scope of relief measures is to be expanded, for instance, the extension of the proceeding procedures in cases of unavoidable reasons such as disaster;
c) The revised Patent Attorney Act redefined the mission and business of patent attorney so as to improving the services provided by patent attorneys.
Moreover, in April 2014, a program was started to reduce annual patent fees to 1/3 for small and medium-sized venture companies, and small business operators.
Japan has also achieved progress in terms of international integration and cooperation in recent years. In January 2014, Japan commenced Global Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) with 12 countries and regions and started the first one with Columbia in September the same year.
On June 5, 2015, a new decision announced by the Supreme Court of Japan further improved the difficulty of patenting product representations. The number of utility model patent applications continued to decline, and the number of design patent applications increased slightly.
In March 2016, Japan formally submitted an instrument of ratification to the PLT Treaty (Patent Law Treaty) and the STLT Treaty, which came into effect on June 11, 2016.
After hitting the peak with 143,221 applications in 2007, the number of trademark applications remained between 100,000 and 120,000 for several years, but in 2015 it reached 147,283. Among all the domestic companies, Shiseido Company, Limited, Sanrio Company, Ltd, and Fujitsu Limited ranked the top three companies with the most number of trademarks registration in 2014. The field where most applications fell was service, followed by machinery.
With the development of business, the old Trademark Act is obsolete, and revision has been made recently in Japan. Under the revised act, the registration subject of the regional collective trademarks is expanded to commerce, industry associations, chambers of commerce and industry, and specified non-profit organizations (NPO), instead of mere associations founded by special laws. Moreover, nontraditional trademarks like color and sound are also subjected to protection by the revised Trademark Act of Japan.
In Japan, the pre-registration protection is based on the Anti-Unfair Competition Law. According to the Anti-Unfair Competition Law, the owner of the logo must prove that the relevant logo has a certain reputation in Japan, and if the consumer uses the same or similar logo without permission, it will cause confusion. Since 1990, Japan’s Anti-Unfair Competition Law has been amended several times to prevent the theft of trade secrets (such as proprietary technology, customer lists, sales brochures, and experimental data). The Anti-Unfair Competition Law was thoroughly amended in 1993 to provide an injunction if any person already knows or should have known that the information infringes the trade secret but still improperly uses, obtains or discloses the information. The 2005 amendment to the Anti-Unfair Competition Law introduced criminal penalties and increased penalties, thereby further strengthening the protection of trade secrets. Despite this, due to the judicial process, it is difficult to ensure that trade secrets are not leaked during the implementation phase.
According to the relevant international agreements, in the registration of copyright, Japan adheres to the principle of informalism, that is, copyright registration is not a prerequisite for protection. However, the Japanese Ministry of Education has kept a registration form that records the date of first release of the work, the date of creation of the work, and the transfer of copyright.
In Japan, the term copyright is a convenient collective term including author’s right and neighboring rights under the Copyright Act. In order for a work to be protected under the Copyright Act, it must fulfill the following conditions: (1) expressing thoughts or sentiments, (2) being an expression, (3) being original and (4) falling within the literary, scientific, artistic or musical domain. The right-holders enjoy both moral rights and economic rights, which, if infringed, will result in civil and criminal liability of the infringer.
To better integrate into the world and come in line with legislation in the US and EU, Japan agreed the Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP) copyright provision of adding a 20 years extension to its protection term for copyright in May 2014, which means the author’s life plus 70 years after the author’s death. Japan’s accession to Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances in June 10, 2014 can also manifest its determination of developing its IP system.
Trade secret
Article 2 of the Japanese Law on the Prevention of Unfair Competition prohibits trade secrets as technical or operational information that is managed as a secret and that is not yet well known for its production methods, sales methods, and other business activities. According to this rule, its trade secrets must have three conditions:
First, it must be managed as a secret, referring to the extent to which such management does not allow third parties to know their trade secrets without illegal means; Second, technical or operational intelligence that must have practical value in business activities, mainly refers to being adopted in business activities, and gaining operational benefits or improving, not any intelligence can be a trade secret. Third, it is not well known. It refers to the state in which the management of trade secret holders cannot be known under normal circumstances.
However, because reverse engineering knows that the situation of a certain technology is complicated, it needs to be combined with specific cases for specific analysis New plant variety.
New plant variety
Japan is the first country in Asia to implement a new plant variety protection system. Plants protected by the Agricultural Seeds and Seedlings Act include seed plants, ferns, bryophytes, multicellular algae and other plants. In addition, Japan also includes mushrooms in the scope of protected species, which covers almost all varieties of mushrooms grown in Japanese agriculture. The period of protection for the rights of the breeder is set to 25 years from the date of granting the variety right, and 30 years if the variety to be protected is woody.
Integrated circuit layout design
The object of protection of the “semiconductor integrated circuit line layout method" in Japan is "Circuit Layout", which is defined in the second paragraph 2, that is,"Circuit layout" refers to the layout of electronic components in a semiconductor integrated circuit and the wires connecting the components. The protection period for integrated circuit layout design is 10 years from the date of registration.

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