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Home > About JPO > Commissioner´s Message > 2016 New Year’s Message by Hitoshi Ito, JPO Commissioner

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2016 New Year’s Message
by Hitoshi Ito, JPO Commissioner

At the start of this New Year, I would like to extend my sincere wishes to one and all for a happy 2016.

Ever since the Shinzo Abe administration came into power, a wide range of policies have quickly been implemented, and these have led to improved corporate revenues and enabled a virtuous economic cycle to gradually take root. Last autumn, Prime Minister Abe unveiled the “Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens,” a plan to create a society in which every citizen is actively engaged and plays a functional role. He also spoke of launching "three new arrows" to achieve this latest goal. Among the three arrows, the first one is to develop a robust economy that leads to hope, and to this end, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry must do its utmost to support and expand the aforementioned virtuous economic cycle. Continuous innovation is essential when it comes to achieving economic growth, and intellectual property rights systems play a very important and fundamental role in this regard. Based on this, the Japan Patent Office will continue to support the Japanese innovation system through administering intellectual property.

The first pillar in achieving this end is “Creating the World's Fastest and Highest Quality Examination System.” In order to increase the quality and efficiency of examinations and speed up procedures, we will continue to hire approximately 100 fixed-term examiners, enhance prior art searches on foreign patent documents, and make efforts towards creating a new information system. We will also further strengthen our cooperation with emerging countries, in order to build a landscape that protects intellectual property, with a vision to take Japan's advanced intellectual property system on to the world stage.

The second pillar is “Promoting Regional Revitalization and Enhancing Support for SMEs”, since SMEs are the backbone of Japan's economic growth. First of all, in order to support SMEs for making strategic use of their intellectual property, as well as to assist local regions in creating and establishing their regional brands, we will enhance the functionality of the IP Comprehensive Support Counters established in each of Japan's 47 prefectures nationwide. In addition, through having the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training play a central role toward this end, and further strengthening our collaboration with entities such as the “One-Stop Business Consultation Offices” (run by the SME Agency), JETRO, and intellectual property specialists, we will provide support that best matches the actual conditions prevailing in every region. Along with this, we will also provide SMEs subsidies for filing foreign applications and filing infringement lawsuits as a part of our comprehensive support to enable SMEs to expand their overseas businesses and regional brands. Furthermore, we will also send specialists to SMEs, who have keen eyes for commercial opportunities so as to provide SMEs support for creating new businesses in local regions.

Last year, the revisions made to the Trademark Act in 2013 became effective, and we started to accept applications for non-traditional trademarks. In October, the first-ever decisions to permit the registrations of such trademarks were made. Also, last year, national laws and ordinances were established  responding to the revisions made to the Design Act in 2013. This enabled Japan to accede to the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, through which Japanese applicants can file one, single international application to register their designs in multiple countries. Furthermore, based on the revisions made to various acts last year, the employee invention system was revised in order to ensure adequate incentives for researchers while at the same time to make companies more competitive. Patent fees were revised, in order to promote the utilization of intellectual property rights and facilitate international harmonization of the intellectual property system. Japan established laws and ordinances in order to enable the country to accede to the Patent Law Treaty and the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks. This year, we will steadily continue to implement and bring into effect various new laws and ordinances that were enacted over the past two years.

The year of 2016 will also be an important year in terms of putting in place institutional preparations for the broad agreement reached on the TPP. We will promptly commence deliberations system for extension of the duration of a patent right as well as the compensation system for the damage caused by the illegal use of trademarks, both of which must be established before the implementation of the TPP. Based on the results of such deliberations, we at the JPO will be doing everything necessary in this regard.

With the growth of businesses worldwide, the number of patent applications that Japanese companies filed with IP offices overseas has increased 140% over the past decade. The Japan’s balance of payments in the field of charges for the use of intellectual property n.i.e. has been in surplus since 2003, and now stands at roughly 1.7 trillion yen in surplus. This demonstrates that Japan has been experiencing a transition toward adopting new forms of revenue generation derived from the utilization of intellectual property based on advanced technological capabilities. In light of these circumstances, we are fully committed to making our utmost efforts to ensure that the innovation that constitutes Japan's source of industrial competitiveness will be further advanced, and to make Japan’s intellectual property system even more user-friendly.

In closing, I would most sincerely appreciate your continued cooperation with and support of the JPO and its efforts in administering intellectual property. In addition, I wish you all good health and further prosperity in 2016.

January 1, 2016
Hitoshi Ito
JPO Commissioner

[Last updated 4 January 2016]