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Changes to Patent Law in Japan

Given recent changes in working practices, due at least in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) has revised its laws and procedures to adapt them in line with advances in digitisation and to strengthen the intellectual property system as a whole.

While the changes introduced by the JPO are wide-ranging, one of the most significant is the relaxation of the conditions for the restoration of rights.  In some cases where a deadline is missed, a right can be restored if the lapse was purely unintentional, as is the case in the UK.  A brief statement is required to support such a restoration request, and no evidence is necessary, although a significant reinstatement fee must be paid.

Other changes include introducing a new Amicus Brief system, allowing the Japanese courts to seek the opinion of third parties as Amicus Curiae in cases of patent infringement litigation.  Additionally, a patentee is no longer required to obtain the consent of non-exclusive licensees to correct or abandon a Japanese patent.

Similar to the European Patent Office, parties summoned to oral hearings relating to the validity of patent rights may now attend the hearing by videoconference.  Finally, the JPO has increased the cost of renewal fees, with patent owners exempt from surcharges if their failure to timely pay a renewal fee was due to a natural disaster or similar reason.

These changes will come into force over the coming months after the law enabling these changes was enacted on 21 May 2021.

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Dr Thomas Gibb

Head of Professional Practice
Southampton