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Address upon Assuming the Presidency

Address upon Assuming the Presidency

— Enhancing the Presence of Patent Attorneys —

Building a Solid Foundation for Future Generations


Fumio Furuya


Japan Patent Attorneys Association


1. Introduction

As I assume the presidency of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association (JPAA) for FY2013, I would like to take this opportunity to deliver an address to JPAA members.

As part of the recent trend toward rapid globalization, IP users are currently exposed to harsh international competition, and many patent attorneys have been sometimes involved in extreme and exhausting races for intellectual property rights.  Young patent attorneys in particular are at a loss as to what their goals should be after obtaining their qualification, and many are losing confidence.

However, since we as patent attorneys are now exposed to severer competition, it is even more important for us to redouble our effort for enhancing our expertise and competitiveness from a global perspective and for providing our clients with more sophisticated professional services.  In so doing, we should strive to increase our professional stature — in terms of our remuneration, reputation, the satisfaction and accomplishment we feel by contributing to society, and various other values depending on the priorities of individuals — and to create an environment in which we can truly feel that the profession of a patent attorney is rewarding and deserving of pride.  If we do not, young patent attorneys may be frustrated to lose their dreams and hopes, which may result in eventual collapse of the patent attorney system and cause tremendous damage to our country.

With this in mind, and in cooperation with all of the vice presidents—namely, Mr. Norio Takanashi, Mr. Takiro Kojima, Mr. Takashi Tomizawa, Mr. Atsushi Aoki, Mr. Tatsuya Tanaka, Mr. Noriaki Nagahama, Mr. Yoshinori Ishibashi, and Mr. Ken Ishikawa—, I will endeavor to promote the activities planned for FY2013 while making it my mission to enhance the presence of patent attorneys and build a solid foundation which will allow patent attorneys to realize their dreams and hopes and commit themselves to their duties with confidence and pride.


2. Top-Priority Activities

(1) Developing human resources and supporting the JPAA members in providing their professional service

(2) Activating IP system

(3) Realizing prideful patent attorney system

(4) Performing IP awareness-waking and IP supporting activities

(5) Reform of JPAA governance

(6) Reform of JPAA organization


(1) Developing human resources and supporting the JPAA members in providing their professional service

* The JPAA endeavors to develop practical ability training programs for allowing experienced patent attorneys to transfer their skills to inexperienced patent attorneys, and establish a “patent attorney training school” for providing training courses based on such programs.

* The JPAA endeavors to develop training programs for in-house patent attorneys and provide training based on such programs or otherwise allow them access to such programs, thus helping the in-house patent attorneys improve their skills and enhance their presence in the company.

* The JPAA endeavors to provide inexperienced patent attorneys with more opportunities to improve their skills.

The JPAA tries to introduce a mechanism in which inexperienced patent attorneys having completed the training course in the “patent attorney training school” or other initial training programs are introduced to IP firms and companies seeking IP professionals, thereby enabling them to shift from training to practice.

* The JPAA aims to expand the scope of patent attorney services.

The market for patent attorney services is clearly shrinking, and we may not be able to survive simply by waiting for it to recover.  Business fields that we can open and enter by utilizing our professional experience as patent attorneys exist not only in the area of exclusively authorized services of patent attorneys but also in the area of related services.  The JPAA endeavors to study these business opportunities on an organizational level and feedback the results to its members.

* The JPAA endeavors to support the efforts of patent firms for strengthening their competitiveness.

The JPAA endeavors to study the services patent attorneys should provide to domestic clients reducing the cost of obtaining IP rights from a global perspective, and propose an improvement plan to its members and their clients.  In this respect, the JPAA focuses on cost reduction measures for each country or region and proposes to its members a means for preventing the clients from increasingly looking abroad for intellectual property legal services.


(2) Activating IP System

The JPAA endeavors to establish an association-wide unit for regularly reviewing trends and movements in IP system reform from a mid- and long-term perspective in order to present reasonable policy recommendations in a regular and timely manner.

In particular, the JPAA endeavors to promote discussion and interaction with external entities including industry, relevant governmental entities, and political circles for proposing systems that benefit the IP users.


(3) Realizing prideful patent attorney system

The JPAA urges lawmakers to amend the Patent Attorneys Act (with respect to the authorized scope of patent attorney services, compulsory training system, attorney-client privilege, missions of patent attorneys, definitions of unauthorized practices, and so forth), with the aim of promoting the presence of patent attorneys to outside entities, based on the efforts and achievements made thus far in improving the skill of patent attorneys, thereby enabling them to take pride in their profession.

In addition, the JPAA undertakes a fundamental review of the patent attorney qualification examination to ensure that the examination system guarantees that patent attorneys have the necessary ability to provide the clients with services specialized in intellectual property matters, instead of making insignificant patch-working changes to the existing system.


(4) Performing IP awareness-waking and IP supporting activities

While encouraging patent attorneys to improve their skills independently, the JPAA endeavors to carry out activities to wake awareness in industrial circles and among other parties concerned so that patent attorneys are properly evaluated for the services they provide.  If our services are evaluated according to a deflation-oriented standard — the cheaper, the better — irrespective of the quality of the services provided, this tendency will induce price-cutting competition at the risk of quality lowering, thereby leading the IP system and the patent attorney system to impoverishment and to eventual collapse.  This is not a desirable outcome for our country.  With the aim of establishing a framework wherein patent attorneys who provide their clients with satisfactory services are evaluated properly according to the quality of their services, the JPAA endeavors to actively exchange opinions with industry and other relevant parties with the aim of building up a system which motivates patent attorneys while also satisfying the users.

At the same time, the JPAA endeavors to enhance community-based activities by strengthening the independence of its branch offices to carry out support and awareness-waking activities.

Furthermore, the JPAA endeavors to promote the development of IP-related educational programs for students in collaboration with external educational institutions including the Intellectual Property Association of Japan as well as universities and technical colleges, and create a system for providing cost-effective education-oriented programs based on student psychology while also supporting the implementation of these programs.


(5) Reform of JPAA Governance

The JPAA reviews and simplifies its existing governance system, which was put into operation in FY2006, when the JPAA had branch offices nationwide.  Since then, however, the governance system has been criticized for its complexity and inconsistency regarding the relationship between the council and the executive board and regarding the authorities and voting rights of the president, vice presidents and executive directors at the meeting of executive board.  A need for systemic reform has been discussed in recent years, but no reform has ever been made.

In this fiscal year, the JPAA endeavors to put an end to the issue of the governance system and simplify the relationships between the council and the executive board and between the president, vice presidents, and executive directors to ensure more flexible and efficient administration of the JPAA activities.


(6) Reform of JPAA Organization

The JPAA endeavors to eliminate problems arising from sectionalism for streamlining and activating the activities of the JPAA as a whole.

* By strengthening the secretarial functions of the President’s Office and taking other measures, the organization of the JPAA will be reformed to monitor the JPAA activities throughout the organization for regularly supporting the executive board, thereby promoting unification and streamlining the JPAA activities.  The JPAA also aims to reduce the daily clerical workload imposed on the executive board and strengthen the control function of the executive board.

* In order to carry out publicizing activities in line with the intentions of the executive board, the JPAA will confer publicizing functions to a support unit such as the President’s Office for providing such a support unit with a role of an information center, thereby allowing the executive board to take direct control over strategic publicizing activities.


3. Conclusion

The above is only a summary of top-priority activities or goals the JPAA will commit itself to in FY2013. I hope to accomplish these goals and build a solid foundation for future generations.  I would sincerely appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

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