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Home> About JPO> Commissioner's Message> New Year Greetings 2022 - MORI Kiyoshi, JPO Commissioner

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New Year Greetings 2022 - MORI Kiyoshi, JPO Commissioner

I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

As 2022 begins, we find ourselves still facing the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought about dramatic changes to our society, causing new needs to emerge and making innovation more and more important for new business growth.
In looking at filings in 2020, for example, the number of applications filed to register designs with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) increased by 0.8% year over year. As for patents and trademark applications, the number declined by 6.3% and 5.1%, respectively, from the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of requests for patent examination increased 3.7% between January and September 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. This shows that users request examinations as needed, while they carefully choose the inventions for which they want to file patent applications. In the same period of 2021, the number of filings to register designs and trademarks increased by 0.9% and 1.3%, respectively. We urge users to file patent applications that are appropriate for their needs, given that our society is going through a major transformation during this uncertain period. Aiming to contribute to industrial development, the JPO will continue to appropriately protect intellectual property (IP) and support your business by encouraging innovation.

We are working continuously towards digitizing the filing process. For example, we eliminated the need for signatures and seals for many filing procedures. Another example is when we, in October 2021, introduced oral proceedings at trials and appeals hearings that now can be conducted by video conference. As for examination, we developed online interviews and telework environments. Through these initiatives in digital transformation, we will maintain the world's fastest and utmost quality in our examinations and improve user-friendliness.

We are taking various measures to create a framework that achieves more efficient examinations that are of the highest quality. We inaugurated the Team for Supporting AI Examinations, an internal body in which the respective examination divisions collaborate beyond their own, respective technical fields. The use of AI has already begun in assigning patent classifications to foreign documents and in making prior art searches. In design examination, we are advancing the agile development of a search tool that supports examiners by using image search technology. As for trademark examination, an image search tool that uses AI technology has been developed and introduced on a trial basis to search for similar, figurative trademarks. To improve the performance of our search tools, we are holding a machine-learning competition and calling on the wider public to develop models with higher accuracy.

Our financial situation is tight, as the patent special account has been in the red since fiscal year 2014. To ensure that the IP system continually operates stably, a fiscal inspection subcommittee conducts third-party inspections on the status of our financial management. Based on the subcommittee’s discussions, we will review our fee structure after thoroughly improving operational and organizational efficiencies. We will continue to reinforce the examination system and digital transformation.

The JPO researches trends in patent filings, getting deeper insights into technological fields where new market opportunities are expected, and where the government should promote research and development (R&D) as a political strategy. We ensure high accuracy of analyses by manually reading the documents extracted using the search formula compiled by the JPO examiners. Analyzing trends is based upon observations conducted by multiple experts in their respective, technological fields.

Businesses need to step up their efforts in ascertaining their investments in IP assets and strategies. This is evident in the recent revision to the Corporate Governance Code. We expect that better insight of patent data will lead to appropriately evaluating corporate value.

In addition, patent information is also beneficial to users when they file to register their IP overseas as a strategy to develop their businesses globally. The JPO is conducting the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) with the largest number of IP offices in the world, expediting the examination of your patent applications worldwide.

The JPO is also promoting a new brand-development strategy. One of the branding strategies is to design a consistent concept for customer touchpoints, including products, packaging, and store interiors and exteriors. A strategic package of design and trademark rights works effectively under this approach. First, a design right allows for the exclusive use of the design of the product, package, store, etc., and then the brand establishes its distinctiveness through use. Later, the distinctive brand-asset becomes registrable for a trademark right. As a result, this achieves seamless protection, starting from the design right up to registering and using the trademark right. This approach should contribute to regional branding, as well as support developing local economies.

In 2021, we released the Action Plan for Utilization of Intellectual Property by Small and Medium Enterprises and Startups together with the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency (SMEA), and the Action Plan for Utilization of Intellectual Property by Universities with the Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau, aiming to strengthen support for SMEs, startups, and universities so that they can make better use of their IP. The action plans include:

  • strengthening cooperation between SMEA and the Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau
  • reinforcing organizational collaboration between The National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) and other support institutions for SMEs
  • enhancing the INPIT's IP comprehensive helpdesks and its one-on-one support for small businesses
  • effectively implementing the Intellectual Property Acceleration program for Startups (IPAS) and the IP strategy designer dispatch project.
  • establishing a project for university-originated startups to acquire global IP rights helpful for international business development.

We will execute these measures soundly and steadily.

In 2021, the JPO hosted the Trilateral Heads of Office Meeting and the IP5 Heads of Office Meeting to support economic activities being conducted by Japanese users overseas. We led the discussion on the harmonization of systems and operations. By sending experts and providing training, we support IP offices in emerging and developing countries by helping them implement IP systems. Furthermore, we are engaged in international IP initiatives, including actively supporting WIPO GREEN, which promotes the creation of environmental technologies. The JPO aims to create a global IP environment in which cooperation with other IP offices and international organizations can be further strengthened.

We updated our Mission, Vision, and Values (MVV) in 2021. Based on this revised MVV philosophy, we will pursue new projects that will lead to the collaborative creation of an IP ecosystem to solve social issues, aiming for the success of the Osaka-Kansai Expo in 2025.

The JPO will further strive to encourage innovation by conducing speedy and high-quality examinations. We are committed to creating ways to assist your business to achieve success across all areas. For example, one way we are doing this is by revising our Guide to Licensing Negotiations Involving Standard Essential Patents.

As we begin 2022, I appreciate your continued cooperation and support this year also to the JPO’s ongoing work in administering IP. And once again, I extend my best wishes to you for the New Year.

MORI Kiyoshi,
JPO Commissioner

[Last updated 4 January 2022]