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InauguralAddress 2007

Achieving true professionalism

President Jun Nakajima
Jun Nakajima

It gives me great pleasure to deliver this address as the new president of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association.
I am the first president of the association to begin a two year tenure, and I would like to introduce some of the core issues I hope to address during those two years. Briefly, these issues are amending the patent attorney law, establishing more solid foundations for the patent attorney system, responding to the demands of the public, improving the efficiency of our association and dealing with information management. I would like to describe my plans for each of these areas in turn.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the association’s executives and other related persons during the previous fiscal year, an amendment to the patent attorney law is imminent. The amendment will surely raise the professionalism of the patent attorney industry through measures such as the introduction of a practical training system for patent attorney trainees before they register, the introduction of a compulsory system of training to improve patent attorney quality, and an expansion of the range of tasks patent attorneys are allowed to handle.
The practical training system will require persons who pass the patent attorney examinations (whose numbers are rapidly increasing) to undergo mandatory training which will allow them to work under a veteran patent attorney at as early a stage as possible. Current patent attorneys already work as professionals in a wide variety of business settings, but the mandatory training system is a reflection of how the profession must adapt to an environment in which knowledge of intellectual property related laws and other changes to working practices must be updated on a daily basis.
The amendment to the patent attorney law is soon scheduled to go before the Diet and we will not relax our efforts to co-operate with various agencies, in particular the Japan Patent Office, until the bill is passed and related ministerial ordinances are issued.
We will engage in the implementation of various preparations and improvements to ensure that, once the amendment is passed, the measures set out in the amendment can be smoothly put into practice. The introduction of a practical pre-registration training system and a system of training for currently qualified patent attorneys will involve a very large number of people and take a large amount of time. Therefore, I will work together with the Education Institute to address a variety of issues including investment in training, the establishment of training content and the hiring of training staff. I will also try to introduce an internship system that will allow new recruits to undergo training not only at the Japan Patent Attorney Association but also at patent law firms.

Following the 2000 amendment to the patent attorney law, the range of work of the patent attorney was expanded to include peripheral and related work to the principal work for the patent attorneys. Patent attorneys are the only professionals to hold expert qualifications in the field of intellectual property and I am convinced that the benefits of improved efficiency in intellectual property and related work can only be achieved by entrusting these tasks to patent attorneys. 
We must pursue even more advanced level of our principal work. We must also ensure that ever greater numbers of patent attorneys are capable of working in intellectual property related fields. Therefore I intend to work towards the personnel development of a large number patent attorneys who can serve in a general advisory capacity. Such personnel development would revolve around our association’s expert committees, such as our Patent Committee, Education Institute and Intellectual Property Business Academy. We should also seek support from external organizations such as universities.
We will also need to implement promotional activities to raise awareness among our clients and other members of the public of the various intellectual property related tasks that patent attorneys are now able to handle. I intend to implement publicity and build public understanding in an efficient way.
Other important issues that will be addressed in the planned patent attorney law amendment are the improvement of compliance among patent attorneys and at patent attorneys offices and measures to secure the maintenance of product quality. I will make preparations and take actions to ensure that all the members of our association are aware of these changes. The same also applies to the revisions to the patent attorney fee system, which was revised last year.
We also need to take actions to reform the organization of patent attorney offices. In addition to expanding and improving compliance by patent attorneys working at patent law firms, I also intend to create and disseminate work standards that can serve as guidelines on the scope of patent attorney accountability to clients, procedures for dealing with information received from clients and for patent attorneys fee at each individual office.
I also believe that we must take urgent actions to build structures in patent law firms that clarify the responsibilities patent attorneys hold towards the Japan Patent Office and their clients.
We must also ask patent law firms to build training and administrative structures that allow the creation of comprehensive systems of responsibility for making patent applications in foreign countries, a process which is listed under the proposed amendment to the patent attorney law as an official task for patent attorneys.
Therefore, I propose that during this fiscal year the Association does not confine itself to simply providing members with information, but rather should create a future model of patent law firms administration and provide opportunities to make direct communication with members who run their own offices.
However, we must also remember that our membership also includes professionals working for corporations and public organizations. How should our Association provide these members with value? What should our role be? I intend to reflect members’ opinions on these matters in the future running of the Association.
The government’s plan to turn Japan into a nation built on intellectual property has evolved into a new plan, Innovation 25. Intellectual Property Strategic Programs, which are published by the Secretariat of Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters, have become more and more comprehensive each year with the addition of new items, and each year demands and expectations of patent attorneys are increasing. I intend to continue providing regional support for mobile publicity “caravans” and “town meetings” to spread awareness of the intellectual creation cycle framework throughout the country. For this, we will efficiently undertake support activities with the cooperation of such organizations as the Intellectual Property Assist and Support Center and branch offices across the nation.
I also intend to work together with various affiliated organizations to make some progress on dealing with a range of different social demands on our organization. These include support for governmental efforts to speed up the patent screening process, co-operation on the formation of alliances between industry, academia and government, support for medium and small-sized venture companies, and various international projects such as co-operation with the international system for rights acquisition.

I will also be giving serious thought to the services and support our Association should provide to its members. In addition to the roles defined under current regulations, there are numerous other issues to tackle including the speedy provision of information to members and dealing with various issues that members are unable to handle as individuals. We must also take actions to maintain our organization’s activities by encouraging increased participation. Currently, our membership is increasing but the number of members participating in these activities is not. Due to environmental changes, we may be unable to continue supporting our mutual aid system, and I would like to ask members for their opinions before deciding what direction we should take.
During this fiscal year, I will work to further improve the transparency of our executive council and association secretariat. As the number of patent attorneys increases, and our Association’s external relationships expand, we are expanding the secretariat. Via measures including the improvement of our database through computerization, I intend to achieve efficient management of the secretariat and an increasingly thorough development of crisis management systems. By improving and expanding a database for supporting members operations, we will assist them in improving their work efficiency.

From this fiscal year, the president’s term of office has been extended to two years. Therefore, we are now able to make longer-term plans. The work of the Patent Attorneys Association is of a public nature and as such all activities are budgeted for in advance. However, the range of plans was limited as they were only for a single fiscal year. Under this new system, we will be able to use the first fiscal year for making preparations and the second fiscal year for putting those preparations into action.

We will use this framework for the practical training of new recruits and compulsory training for association members, which will be introduced under the amendments to the patent attorneys law. We will prepare the training systems during the first fiscal year and implement them in earnest during the following fiscal year. With regard to the expansion and improvement of the peripheral services offered by patent attorneys, I also intend to use the first fiscal year for research and planning and the second fiscal year for actual member training. Leveraging the merits of the two-year system and allocating our budget over two years will facilitate the realization of these plans. I will provide further details of these plans at our Annual General Meeting.

As I have outlined above, there are numerous issues that patent attorneys and our Association must deal with. Furthermore, although we are implementing various reforms, public expectations toward reforms are even higher. The work of patent attorneys should naturally be highly advanced and wide-ranging. Our value as professionals lies in our ability to respond fully to the needs of the public. I hope to work together with you all to support all our Association’s members in achieving true professionalism. I will be extremely grateful for your cooperation, support and advice.

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