Japan to address the IP issue between large enterprises and SMEs

The previous article on possible revision of IP litigation system covered different positions taken by large companies and SMEs; – i.e SMEs asking for improvement of the status of patent holders and large companies wanting the maintenance of  the status quo. Now another confrontation between them has been obtaining attention.

According to the document distributed in a government-appointed working group discussing the improvement of business conditions for SMEs or subcontracting companies, some experts in the field of antitrust and subcontracting law have brought up the issue of intellectual property rights and know-how having been siphoned from subcontracting companies into large companies in dominant bargaining position. In response to this suggestion, the government has started investigation through questionnaire and interviews with SMEs. The result of the investigation will be published in the first half of 2019.

The government has recently implemented the following measures for SMEs or start-up companies suffering from resource shortage. However, there’s no chance for them to use these measures, if they are deprived of invention rights.

  • IP Acceleration program for Startups (IPAS) to dispatch expert teams of intellectual property and business
  • Super accelerated examination to grant patents in about 2.5 months
  • JETRO Innovation Program (JIP) to support overseas development utilizing intellectual property
  • Reduction of examination request fee and patent fee by one third

By the way, there is a popular TV drama series in Japan – ‘Downtown Rocket’ which is a story of a struggling man who used to work as a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and now runs a family-owned factory that manufactures small engine, and also faces a patent issue. Sony and Panasonic were once start-up companies. Many Japanese as well as the government may now be expecting SMEs and start-up companies to create business success and develop the economy.