EDITORIAL: Use Revised Intellectual Property Laws to Boost Firms' Competitiveness

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 21, 2015 | Go to article overview

EDITORIAL: Use Revised Intellectual Property Laws to Boost Firms' Competitiveness


We hope this will be a golden opportunity for Japanese corporations to strengthen their intellectual property strategies and boost their competitiveness.

The Patent Law and the Unfair Competition Prevention Law have been revised during the current Diet session. The revised laws are expected to come into force as early as this year.

The revised Patent Law is aimed at giving impetus to research and development, while the revised Unfair Competition Prevention Law is designed to better protect things such as unique technologies.

Intellectual property, such as patents, improves a company's earning power and is an important resource that drives economic development. Giving a helpful push to the use and protection of intellectual property through these law revisions, as part of the government's economic growth strategy, is a reasonable objective.

The main pillar of the revised Patent Law is that it shifts, in principle, the ownership of patent rights for a discovery made by a worker while doing their job (in other words, an invention by an employee) from the employee to the company.

Currently, a company seeking to expand its business by using the patent for an employee invention must buy the patent rights from this worker.

However, there has been a constant stream of court cases over how much remuneration an employee should be paid for making an invention. A classic example was the case involving Shuji Nakamura, who won a Nobel Prize for developing blue light-emitting diodes, and Nichia Corp., where he worked when he made the invention.

It is expected that giving a company ownership of patents for inventions made by its employees will enable the firm to focus on research and development without worrying about the risk of becoming entangled in a court case.

Onus on companies, too

One lingering concern is that if employees are stripped of their individual rights to a patent, their desire to make new discoveries could fade. …

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