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2013年6月18日 (火)

知財ビジョン 国際競争に勝つための体制に

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 18, 2013
Safeguarding intellectual property rights key to competing globally
知財ビジョン 国際競争に勝つための体制に(6月17日付・読売社説)

Intellectual property rights such as patents and trademarks relevant to cutting-edge technologies are undoubtedly the source of the international competitiveness of the nation’s industries.

The need has been increasing for further strengthening joint private-public arrangements to effectively utilize the nation’s intellectual properties.

The government has drawn up a “vision of intellectual property policy” with a view to laying out Japan’s approach toward handling intellectual property rights for the next 10 years, while deciding on a set of “basic principles” on the matter.

It’s been 11 years since the country laid down an outline of intellectual property strategy.

In recent years, manufacturing businesses in such countries as South Korea and China have grown stronger, intensifying global competition among companies, including those in the United States and Europe, which place high importance on the protection of intellectual property rights.

In-house inventions a focus

It is reasonable that the government, having a heightened sense of crisis over the circumstances, has embarked on overhauling the nation’s intellectual property policy in a way well-suited to the times. The envisioned policy shift can be expected to provide impetus to the growth strategy being undertaken by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Worthy of note in the envisioned policy is a new idea concerning “in-house inventions,” or inventions created by employees while performing research and development activities for their firms.

In the basic principles, the government has proposed two options for discussion: reviewing the current patent system, which stipulates patent ownership belongs to employees, so as to have the ownership belong to companies; or requiring patent ownership to be covered in a contract between the employee and the employer.

There have been many instances in which employees dissatisfied with the compensation paid by their companies in return for their in-house inventions have sued the companies, causing the firms to be ordered to pay huge sums of settlement money. The government-proposed changes of patent ownership is in response to demands from businesses to rectify the situation.

If the changes take effect, businesses will find the risks of being subject to patent ownership-related lawsuits mitigated, making it easier for them to craft management strategies by flexibly utilizing patents.

On the other hand, there are concerns the policy shift would affect adversely the willingness of researchers to engage in R&D and end up in a brain drain overseas.

The government is set to clarify the pros and cons of the two envisaged steps. Further studies and in-depth discussions should be carried out from the standpoint of beefing up Japan’s industrial competitiveness.

The proposals are worthy of high marks because they seek the enhancement of support for small and midsize businesses, which are delaying charting out intellectual property strategies on their own. These proposals should make it easier for them to develop human resources relevant to patent matters with the support of experts, such as chartered patent agents.

The basic principles have also incorporated steps for sending from Japan patent examiners to emerging economies in such areas as Asia to help them build infrastructure with an eye toward protecting intellectual property rights.

While an increasing number of Japanese companies are branching out abroad, intellectual property right protection is insufficient in emerging countries, which is a major impediment to Japanese firms’ efforts to expand there. Having a “Japan model” spread overseas in this respect will greatly benefit Japanese businesses.

Increase patent examiners

A key issue is how to prevent important technological information from illegally flowing out to emerging countries and others.

The basic principles have rightly pointed out the need for strengthening the nation’s intellectual property right protection arrangements. Information leakage abroad is a serious problem that could shake the very foundation of Japan’s industries.

Steps should be taken to prevent retirees and others from taking technological information out of the country. Such measures as encouraging companies and their employees to conclude an agreement on maintaining confidentiality of corporate secrets should be promptly put into force.

Compared to the United States and European countries, Japan has few government officials in charge of screening patent applications and related matters. It is critical to increase the number of patent examiners to ensure prompt acquisition of patent ownership and its effective use.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2013)
(2013年6月17日01時21分  読売新聞)


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