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Intellectual Property

Who is the inventor?

Zen International Patents and Trademarks The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is currently preparing a report on the handling of the intellectual property created by artificial intelligence (AI). In this report, it is stated that a person who handles AI rather than AI itself becomes the inventor or designer. This policy may be changed when AI becomes to create the intellectual property only by its own power. In addition, it is stated that the data created by AI will be protected by the Unfair Competition Prevention Law.

A robot with AI

Fake Wagyu Beef and IP

Zen International Patents and Trademarks As Japanese food spreads all over the world, fake Wagyu beef has spread. According to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced that the export value of Wagyu beef in 2016 reached a record high of 13.6 billion yen. The export volume of Wagyu beef also increased by 19% over the previous year. Overseas popularity of Wagyu beef will continue to grow in the future. The main export destination of Wagyu beef at present is East Asia, where fake Wagyu beef has been frequently found. The Japanese government intends to protect the Wagyu brand by utilizing the geographical indication (GI) system which is one of the intellectual property system.

picture of cow

Japan-EU EPA

Zen International Patents and Trademarks The negotiations on the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was held in Tokyo, Japan, from April 3 through April 5, 2017. It was reported that there had been certain progress in various fields such as government procurement, trade and investment rules and intellectual property etc. in the negotiation. Japan is aiming to conclude EPA in 2017, but the date of the next negotiation has been undecided.  

Flag of EU

Maradona will sue Konami?

Zen International Patents and Trademarks Argentina legend footballer Diego Maradona has announced that he will sue Japanese company Konami for using his image without his pamission in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017. In the game at issue, the fictional player is given the name “Malgani”, but shows a striking likeness to Maradona. For now, Konami has not released any comments.  

The East Asia PVP Forum

Zen International Patents and Trademarks Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAF) has focused on developing systems to protect plant varieties in nations of East Asia. In 2007, based on Japan’s proposal, “The East Asia Plant Variety Protection Forum” has been set up by representatives from governments and organizations in the East Asia to discuss protecting plant varieties. The Forum menber countries are Asean 10 countries and China, Republic of Korea and Japan. To promote to expand export and import of seeds and seedlings, it is essential to develop the system to protect intellectual property related to plant varieties among participating countries.          

Strawberry and PVP

Zen International Patents and Trademarks In spring, various brands of strawberries are sold in Japan. “Tochiotome” from Tochigi prefecture and “Amaou” from Fukuoka prefectuer are the most famous strawberries in Japan. However, new varieties of strawberries are constantly beeing developed and released at supermarkets or department stores.  The Japanese strawberry market faces fierce competition. Varieties of newly developed strawberries is in many cases protected by Plant Variety Protection (PVP). PVP authority is linked to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan (MAF). Breeders who want to obtain PVP rights need to submit strawberry seedlings to MAF.            

A survey on trade secret management

Zen International Patents and Trademarks Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA) of Japan released a survey report on trade secret management in companies. According to this report, 8.6% of companies in Japan have experienced trade secret-leakage incidents within the past 5 years. 43.8%(increase from 26.9% of the previous survey) of the leakage was caused by employees, 24.8%(decreased from 50.3% of the previous survey) of that was caused by early retirees. On the other hand, the leakage by business partners and collaborative research partners was reached to 11.4% (slight increase from 9.3% in the previous survey).


Kumamon’s 2016 Annual Sales

Zen International Patents and Trademarks Accoriding to media reports, 2016 annual sales of “Kumamon”-related merchandise reached a record, at least 128 bilion yen. “Kumamon” is a famous mascot PR character of Kumamoto prefecture in Japan and it was created in 2010 as part of a promotion campaign.  Kumamoto prefectuer allows the use of Kumamon’s image for free under certain conditions.  People who want to use Kumamon’s image need to inform the prefectural government in advance. In 2016,  a series of powerful earthquakes hit Kumamoto prefecture.  “Kumamon” cheered up poeple who were living in evacuation centers after the earthquakes.      

An Izakaya was sued for reasons that store’s appearance is very similar.

Zen International Patents and Trademarks There is no concept like a trade dress in Japanese law. Therefore, even if the store’s appearance is very similar, it is impossible to sue the counterparty. Recently, there was a decision of a Court that granted an injunction based on unfair competition prevention law against such a situation. So, Yossix who runs a Izakaya(Japanese pub) sued SPFdining which runs another pub, claiming that similar signs and the like are in violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Law.

Ilustration of Izakaya

WIPO’s statistics on International Applications of Patents

Zen International Patents and Trademarks The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has published its statistics on International Applicaions of Patents, Trademarks and Designs in 2016. According to WIPO, U.S.-based applicants filed 56,595 PCT applications, followed by applicants from Japan (45,239) and China (43,168). China’s ZTE Corporation is the biggest filer of PCT applications and its number is 4,123. With respect to Madrid trademark, U.S. applicants (7,741) filed the largest number of international trademark applications, followed by Germany (7,551) and France (4,132).  L’Oréal of France is the biggest filer with 150 applications. For more detail, please see here.        

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