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 monopoly right granted to an inventor by filing a patent acts as an incentive to keep people innovating and creating new things. If no patent right were available, others could quickly copy the invention and the inventor would not necessarily reap any financial reward for his or her creativity and hard work. Therefore the longer the period of patent protection, the longer an inventor has to profit from his or her invention and the more incentive there is for future inventors to create new and innovative products.
The Japan Patent Office (JPO) requires that patent applications in Japan must be filled out in Japanese. Furthermore, the title of each document and the headings of each document must also be written in Japanese. While the actual description, claims and drawings may be originally submitted in English, the JPO will require Japanese translations to be submitted within one year and two months from the earlier of either the filing date or the priority date. If the translations are not submitted, the application is deemed withdrawn.
Before filing for patent or utility model protection in Japan, it is advisable to keep the patented material secret, or at least unpublished. If the material you wish to patent has already been published elsewhere, it will have lost its novelty and will no longer be patentable in Japan. However, an exception exists for material patented in other countries that fit specific criteria.