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Japan Issues a Ground Rule for IP Reforms

On July 3, 2002, the Japanese Government issued a ground rule for overhauling the infrastructure of intellectual property systems in Japan. The ground rule, prepared by the Strategic Council on Intellectual Property whose members are representative cabinet members and business leaders chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, lists up specific action plans for 55 items. They are expected to improve the level of creation, protection, utilization and education of intellectual property in Japan by FY2005.

The ground rule focus on, among other things:

1) establishing a system for common use of prior art by the Patent Office of major countries;
2) limiting first instance patent jurisdiction to the Tokyo District Court and the Osaka District Court;
3) strengthening regulations against counterfeit goods;
4) legislating criminal protection of trade secrets;
5) giving authorization to universities for the creation and administration of intellectual property;
6) fostering IP experts and practitioners.

The government will legislate an "Intellectual Property Charter," which is to play a role of intellectual property constitution. Upon the legislation in 2003, the government will form an "IP Strategic Headquarter" consisting of cabinet members to supervise the development of reforms performed by responsible ministries and agencies.

The package of action plans broadly reflects proposals put forward by the National Forum for Intellectual Property earlier this year. Those who are interested in the text of the NFIP proposals are suggested to visit the web at: http://www.smips.rcast.u-tokyo.ac.jp/NFIPS.html. where English translations of the NFIP proposals are accessible. Missing elements include, among others, completion of examination within one year and establishment of a quasi-judicial organization for exclusions of flowing counterfeits.

(By Jinzo FUJINO; Published in the LES International Journal "les Nouvelles" September 2002)

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