Enhancing IP protection amid increased globalization

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The Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA) held its 13th JIPA IP Symposium in Tokyo on Feb. 24 to raise awareness of importance of intellectual property (IP) in this era of globalization.

More and more, manufacturers in Japan and other developed countries are moving their research and development operations to emerging nations, where they have manufacturing facilities. But they also have reservations about doing so because of inconsistencies in developing countries’ IP protection.

Establishing solid legal systems to properly protect IP in developing countries will help not only the countries attract foreign direct investment, but also firms in developed countries advance their technology through technological collaboration with developing countries, which boast many highly skilled workers.

“I would like to make today a day to think about what is necessary to make universal rules on intellectual property in the world,” JIPA Chairman Michiyoshi Mazuka said to several hundred audience members at the beginning of the symposium at the Tokyo International Forum, in Chiyoda Ward, on Feb. 24.

“It is essential all participating countries establish a win-win situation in the long run in order to make multilateral economic partnerships work,” he said.

WIPO, EPO

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry also greeted to the audience prior to the keynote speech and symposiums.

“It is a pleasure to be here because of the importance of the role of intellectual property in Japanese industries,” Gurry said. “Japan is a major donor and contributor to the IP industry.”

The mission of his organization, WIPO, is to ensure fair competition by properly managing global IP and efficiently handling increasing demand for patent applications, he said.

Handling an increasing number of patent applications is a serious challenge. According to WIPO, the number of global patent applications rose to a two-decade record of 2.35 million in 2012. That compares with 1 million in 1995.

According to WIPO, in 2011, Japan was the leading country for the number of patent applications in the “transportation” category, followed by Germany and the U.S. Japan was second after the U.S. in computer technology and basic materials chemistry, and the third after the U.S. and China in digital communication the same year.

Speaking next, Japan Patent Office Commissioner Hideo Hato, said the Japanese government has placed priority on protecting intellectual property and speeding up the process to grant patents. The government will also try to enact laws related to IP as soon as possible, he said.

European Patent Office (EPO) President Benoit Battistelli was the keynote speaker. The EPO has 38 member states and 7,000 employees, including patent examiners representing 35 nationalities.

Regarding the origin of EPO filings, the U.S., Japan and Germany were the top three applicant countries in 2013. The three countries’ applications accounted for 24.5, 19.7 and 12.1 percent, respectively, according to Battistelli.

Of the companies that file applications with the EPO, Samsung, Siemens, BASF, GE and LG are the top five, according to Battistelli. Mitsubishi is ranked eighth, the highest among Japanese, followed by Panasonic at 11th, Sony at 13th and Hitachi at 17th.

“We have regular contacts with Japanese stakeholders. There is close cooperation between the EPO and the JPO on many projects,” he said.

Echoing Gurry’s statements, Battistelli said one of the EPO’s main challenges is the continuous increase in patent filings. He also said patent applications have become more complex and gaps in the globalization of trade and a lack of continuity in national patent frameworks are challenges.

To tackle the challenges, the EPO is strengthening employee training and developing strategic partnership with other patent offices.

In an effort to enhance the ease of international patent searches, the EPO launched its “Patent Translate” service in February 2012, allowing access to free translations between English and 31 other languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Russian and Korean.

“I strongly urge you to use this service,” he said to the mostly Japanese audience.

The EPO has also established an Economic and Scientific Advisory Committee, which has 11 patent experts, including Sadao Nagaoka, a professor at Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo.

Panel discussions

The afternoon session of the 13th JIPA IP Symposium began with a panel discussion by four Japanese experts titled “Innovation in Countries in Economic Partnerships as well as Current Situation and the Prospects for IP Systems.”

The panel participants were Yasuhisa Kikuchi of the production technology department at Sapporo Breweries Ltd.; Takashi Koyama, a partner at Abe, Wada & Watanabe Law firm; Akiya Nagata, the director of the Center for Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Studies, Kyushu University; and Toshiya Watanabe, a professor at the University of Tokyo Policy Alternatives Research Center. The moderator was Shigeo Takakura, a professor at the Meiji University Graduate School of Law.

Kikuchi delivered a presentation as a member of JIPA’s committee to discuss economic collaborations with other countries. He discussed the current situation of IP-related issues surrounding Japanese companies.

Koyama discussed various bilateral and multilateral economic partnership agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks and the IP issues affecting them.

Nagata spoke on innovation coming out of developing countries, while Watanabe discussed IP strategies of developing countries and challenges faced by Japanese companies.

In the second panel discussion, “Corporate Management & IP in Developing Global Operations-Preparing for the Development of Economic Partnerships,” four global companies — Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Corp., Bridgestone Corp. and Astellas Pharma Inc. — discussed their IP strategies and challenges.

The panel participants were Toyota’s Kenji Kondo, Sony’s Fumihiko Moriya, Bridgestone’s Eiji Mineki and Astellas’s Hiroshi Morita. The moderator was Hideko Mihara of Teijin Ltd. All five work in the IP management department of their respective companies.