As companies pursue technological progress and develop value-added products, patent attorneys must keep up with the advances and meet the demands of corporate customers, according to Sumiko Shimosaka, new president of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association.
“We want to respond to corporate needs by sending out patent attorneys who can cope with rapidly advancing technology and cover new fields, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology,” she said.
Shimosaka, 68, assumed the top position of the association Tuesday, becoming the first female head of the group in its 81-year history. The body currently has about 5,200 members, although women account for less than 10 percent of the total.
The government has attached unprecedented importance to intellectual property rights, as championed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Shimosaka said, emphasizing the importance of this sector.
Intellectual property rights, for which a basic law went into effect last month, have been designated by the government as a key ele- ment in national economic policy.
The government has also introduced various measures to better protect intellectual property rights, including giving patent attorneys more authority in trials pertaining to infringements.
“The next few years will be very important to Japan,” Shimosaka said. “If we can successfully lay the foundation (for better use of intellectual properties) now, this will make a big difference 100 years from now.”
Government deregulation measures in January paved the way for patent attorneys to participate in court litigation jointly with trial lawyers in cases involving intellectual property right infringements.
Previously, patent attorneys could only support trial lawyers. Before patent attorneys can actually participate in a trial, however, they must complete a training course and pass an examination, which means they will not make an appearance in court until early next year.
The measure aims to speed up court procedures by increasing the authority of patent attorneys with expertise in intellectual properties.
Shimosaka said her association is receiving an increasing number of inquiries about intellectual property rights as well as requests for support from both local governments and companies, including small firms, as awareness of the issue grows due to the government’s promotion efforts.
Shimosaka said the attorneys under her can play a bigger role in helping small firms obtain patents and develop new products by providing technological information and advice.
Big companies employ experts on intellectual properties and have divisions dedicated to the issue, but smaller firms rarely can afford this, she said.
“We want to help find potential patents within the country,” Shimosaka said.