Japan has a variety of laws to protect the various types of intellectual property that are so important to modern commercial success. First, the Patent Law and Utility Model Law protect inventions. The Design Law protects the shape and form of a product. The Copyright Law protects novels, music and other creative works. The Trademark Law protects brand logos and images. In addition to these laws there are also specific laws regulating and protecting certain areas of commerce, such as the Semiconductor chip law and Seedling law to protect new types of plants.
The patent system in Japan is based upon a first-to-file system, so it is advantageous to file for patent protection as soon as possible. If two parties file for a similar patent, the party that files first will be granted the patent protection while the second party will be left without rights to the intellectual property. The first-to-file system has the advantage of simplicity and encourages companies to quickly file for patents in Japan if protecting their intellectual property in Japan is important to their business.
In examining a patent application for approval, a Japanese patent examiner will look for several things. Important areas that will be checked are whether the invention utilizes a law of nature, whether it has industrial application, whether the idea existed before this application, whether the invention is obvious, whether this application was the first filed, whether the invention is likely to go against public order and morals, and whether the descriptions in the specification conform exactly with the requirements for patentability.
If you have any questions about Japanese patent law, please contact our office for a legal consultation.