Meilin International Law Firm

Intellectual Property Rights

1. Outline of the intellectual property right system in Japan

Intellectual property rights

  1. Patent rights:
    • Targets to be protected:

      Ideas and technology

    • Term of protection:

      Twenty years from the filing date

    • Procedures for acquisition of rights:

      Application is published after one year and six months from application. It is necessary to request examination within three years from application. Upon request for examination, the Patent Office will examine and decide to grant a patent. The period necessary for acquisition of rights is about one to two years from request for examination. Use of the accelerated examination program will allow a decision to be made in one to two months from request for examination.

  2. Utility model rights:
    • Targets to be protected:

      Ideas and technology

    • Term of protection:

      Ten years from the filing date

    • Procedures for acquisition of rights:

      Acquisition will be completed and registered within about 2 months based on the non-examination system, if formalities are fulfilled. It is necessary to obtain a report of technical opinion from the Patent Office when exercising the rights.

  3. Design rights:
    • Targets to be protected:

      Designs

    • Term of protection:

      20 years from the filing date

    • Procedures for acquisition of rights:

      Acquisition will be completed about 7~9 months from application. A substantive examination is performed by the Patent Office. It will be registered if the legal requirements are satisfied.

  4. Trademark rights:
    • Targets to be protected:

      Name, logo, mark, color, sound, etc.

    • Term of protection:

      10 years from the filing date; provided that, renewal is possible.

    • Procedures for acquisition of rights:

      Acquisition will be completed about 7~9 months from application. Use of the accelerated examination program will allow rights to be acquired within about two ~ three months.

  5. Copyrights:
    • Targets to be protected:

      Creative expressions (text, music, images and videos, website content, programs, etc.)

    • Term of protection:

      50 years from death for a natural person or 50 years from publication by a corporation (provided that there are exceptions)

    • Procedures for acquisition of rights:

      No particular procedures are required. Copyrights will be effective simultaneously upon creation; provided however, procedures for copyright registration are available in order to preserve evidence that creations belong to a given party, and are required to duly assert against a third party when rights are transferred.

  6. Unfair Competition Prevention Act:
    • Targets to be protected:

      well-known indication, famous indication, and configuration of goods

    • Term of protection:

      Not stipulated (three years for imitations of configuration of goods)

    • Procedures for acquisition of rights:

      Not stipulated; provided however, “indications of goods or businesses” (e.g., names and/or configurations of goods) must be well known to consumers or famous among consumers in order to be protected. In the case of imitations of configurations of goods (i.e., dead copies), well-known indication or famous indication is not necessary; however, it is only possible to protect against dead copies for three years from their release.

Use of intellectual property rights
  1. To exclude competitors and imitators (i.e., market monopoly)

    Acquisition of intellectual property rights will allow competitors to be excluded and prevent commencement of production or handling of imitations by other parties.

  2. To secure exploitation and avoid litigation

    When the corporation’s own names or proprietary technology are registered by another company as a trademark or patent right, such corporation will not be able to exploit its own names or technology. It is necessary to register intellectual property rights in order to secure your own business.

  3. To differentiate in the market

    Acquisition of intellectual property rights will add higher value to products compared with competitive goods. The products will be differentiated in the market.

  4. To achieve market predominance in contractual frameworks

    The company can take the lead in contractual negotiations (such as distributorship agreements or manufacturing agreements, etc.) with the technology and/or branding.

  5. To reduce cost, improve productivity based on technology

    Rights for technology and know-how retained by each employee will be succeeded to the company and the levels of technology and productivity of the company as a whole will be improved.

  6. To generate profits through transfer

    Transfer of intellectual property rights or acquisition of license fees through license agreements will raise profitability.

  7. To finance with intellectual property rights

    Intellectual property rights can be mortgaged for a loan from a bank. They also add value and enhance the business for recruiting investors, and for M&A, etc.

3. Points to be noted regarding the use of intellectual property rights

In Japan, the intellectual property right system is well established and provides extensive remedies for infringement litigation, etc.

Exploitation and strategies for intellectual property rights are essential for firm business in Japan.