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Second Presidential Year Opening Address

— Looking back at last year’s accomplishments —

Fumio Furuya


Japan Patent Attorneys Association

Thank you very much for your participation in the activities of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association (JPAA).
In FY2013, the first year of my JPAA presidency, I declared, “Enhancing the Presence of Patent Attorneys—Building a Solid Foundation for Future Generations ,” to be the basic principle for our annual business plan.
Since then, I have worked with the eight Vice Presidents and eleven Executive Directors to carry out various activities in accordance with this basic principle and with the following six basic goals:
(1) developing human resources and supporting the provision of professional services by JPAA members;
(2) promoting the active use of the IP system;
(3) achieving a patent attorney system worthy of pride;
(4) performing IP awareness-generating and IP support activities;
(5) reforming JPAA governance; and
(6) reforming the JPAA structure.

Developing human resources and supporting the provision of professional services by JPAA members

The JPAA developed practical training programs to allow experienced patent attorneys to transfer their skills to inexperienced patent attorneys, and launched “patent attorney training schools” in Tokyo and Osaka in November last year to provide training courses based on these programs. Classes are held every other Saturday, totaling approximately 100 hours a year.
These courses provide practical training for young, inexperienced patent attorneys in drafting patent descriptions under the instruction of experienced patent attorneys.
If this project proves successful, the JPAA will expand the range of subjects offered by the training courses to include not only the drafting of patent descriptions but also of documents for design and trademark applications as well as international applications.
At the same time, the JPAA has developed and is preparing to implement training programs for in-house patent attorneys with the goal of improving their skills and enhancing their presence within companies. These programs will commence by the middle of FY2014 at the latest to supplement the JPAA’s already excellent training program offerings.

Promoting the active use of the IP system

The JPAA reconsidered its passive attitude toward externally expressing its opinions, and set up an “Intellectual Property Strategic Meeting ,” a working group to make policy recommendations on various IP-related issues.
In May last year, the working group adopted a recommendation to, “launch a new IP strategy and reconstruct Japanese industry,” and incorporated it into a report entitled, “Increasing Vitality to Survive Global IP Competition,” which was then submitted to the Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission on Intellectual Property Strategy .
This working group further polished this report and submitted an updated version entitled, “Specific Policy for Revitalizing Japanese Industry via the IP System,” to the Chairman of the LDP’s General Council.
In addition, the JPAA recommended setting up an Intellectual Property Assistance and Support Center to provide comprehensive support to SMEs and venture companies in creating, protecting and utilizing IP, thereby helping to revitalize Japanese industry.
On January 27, 2014, the JPAA submitted a document entitled, “Opinion on the Amendment of the Employee Invention System,” to the Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office (JPO).
The JPAA also submitted recommendations to the Intellectual Property Committee of the METI Industrial Structure Council, including the following: (1) that a large number of additional examiners be hired by the JPO to make Japan’s patent examinations the world’s fastest and highest quality; (2) that the Intellectual Property Digital Library (IPDL) be maintained and revamped; (3) that the IP system be redesigned to be more attentive and attractive to applicants; (4) that a new utility model system be created for the purpose of supporting SMEs and venture companies; and (5) that the JPO establish satellite offices, as the patent offices of Europe, the United States, and China have.

Achieving a patent attorney system worthy of pride

The Patent Attorney System Subcommittee was established under the Industrial Structure Council at the end of August 2013 to study patent attorney system reform. As a result of the six discussions held by February 2014, the Subcommittee compiled a report entitled, “Direction of Patent Attorney System Reform.”
In this report, the Subcommittee proposed legal revisions including (1) introducing a clause stating the mission of patent attorneys, (2) clarifying the scope of patent attorney consulting services (for determining whether an invention is patentable), (3) revising the provisions on the conflict of interests, (4) introducing additional services by revising the Design Act upon accession to the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs , and (5) abolishing the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry’s right to dismiss JPAA directors. The Subcommittee also proposed revising the relevant ministerial ordinance to introduce a new grading system for the patent attorney qualification examination (setting a passing grade for each short-answer examination subject), and suggested measures to strengthen the governance of the JPAA.
The bill to revise the Patent Attorney Act was adopted by the Cabinet on March 11 and is now awaiting deliberation in the Diet. Worthy of special mention is the fact that this revision will introduce a mission clause in Article 1 clearly stipulating that, “A patent attorney, as a specialist in intellectual property (meaning intellectual property as defined under Article 2, paragraph (1) of the Intellectual Property Basic Act ), is entrusted with the mission of contributing to the proper protection and promotion of the utilization of intellectual property rights (meaning intellectual property rights as defined under in Article 2, paragraph (2) of the Intellectual Property Basic Act) and to the proper implementation of systems relating to intellectual property rights, thereby contributing to the development of the economy and industry.” When this bill is enacted, it will open a new page in the 115 year history of the patent attorney system.

Reforming JPAA governance

The JPAA will promote reform of its governance system based on the deliberation and decision at the extraordinary meeting held on March 19. Major objectives of reform include (1) clarification of the roles of the council and of the executive board and securing their respective independence, and (2) reform of the council to strengthen the leadership of the President and Vice Presidents.
In FY2014, the second year of my presidency, I declare, “Fulfilling the Mission of Patent Attorneys and Enhancing Our Presence,” to be the basic principles for our annual business plan.
Some activities included in the Action Plan for FY2013 have not been addressed. Putting these measures into action is the first priority. The next level of priority should be given to fundamental organizational reform of the JPAA, which is strongly desired by most of its members, and to review of the membership rules as strongly demanded by the Industrial Structure Council (which consists of members from industry, academia and government).
Given this, in FY2014, the JPAA will set up a “Taskforce for Organizational Reform,” and assign it to compile a report by the end of October so that organizational reforms will be completed by the end of this fiscal year. These reforms are imperative because all organizations swell and become overburdened by expenses unless reformed.
Before things get out of hand, it is also necessary to reconsider and draw conclusions regarding the relationships between the JPAA’s head office and branch offices and between the JPAA and its affiliated organizations, including with regard to the transfer of power.
The JPAA will also set up a “Taskforce on Membership Rules” to ensure transparent, objective and appropriate disciplinary procedures and draft new rules appropriate to the mission of patent attorneys. This taskforce is also assigned to compile a report by the end of October so as to complete the rule-making process by the end of this fiscal year.
Starting from FY2014, patent attorneys will be stationed at IP Comprehensive Support Centers set up in all 47 prefectures. This is a priority JPO activity implemented using an additional budget of 250 million yen. Although providing active support to SMEs is an innovative initiative, it will be discontinued next year unless it brings about the expected results. This means that patent attorneys appointed as counselors at these centers should fully recognize their responsibility to perform these duties. The JPAA will also be required to thoroughly check the effectiveness of this nationwide patent attorney outreach system and take necessary improvement measures.
In FY2013, the JPAA held 27 meetings with international organizations as well as foreign patent offices and patent attorney associations, starting with the JPAA-AIPLA Joint Meeting (closed meeting, open seminar) in Tokyo on April 5 to 7. It also held 69 training sessions on the IP systems of foreign countries. It will continue to work to respond to globalization.
In FY2014, I will work with the following board members.
8 Vice Presidents: Mr. Hiroyuki Nakagawa, Mr. Yukio Maruyama, Mr. Kiyoshi Hashimoto, Mr. Hideki Takahashi, Mr. Shuichiro Kitamura, Mr. Hiroshi Kamiyama, Mr. Shunichi Yoshimura, and Mr. Seiichi Akagawa
11 Executive Directors: Mr. Osamu Sugawara, Mr. Kihei Watanabe, Mr. Kazuhisa Torii, Mr. Shinichi Ogawa, Ms. Yuriko Hamada, Mr. Takashi Tsujita, Ms. Chiaki Kato, Mr. Yasutaka Iwamoto, Mr. Yoshihide Ogawa, Ms. Fujiko Shibata, Mr. Akira Tsunoda.
I sincerely appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

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