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Research Activity Summary of FY1999

1. Research and Study on Desirable Patent Protection for New Areas (Business Methods)

  With the rapid developments in computer and network technologies in recent years, great interests have taken in patent applications for new business method inventions using these technologies. However, business method inventions have given rise to the concern whether or not they could be statutory subject matters and how the examination on novelty and inventive step could be made, because it is not necessary for technological progress in hardware. We examined the appropriate protection of business method inventions based on domestic and overseas trends and opinions gathered from various industrial sectors.

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2.  Research and Study on Desirable Patent Protection for New Areas (Network Trading)

  With the rapid development of telecommunication technology symbolized by Internet in recent years, digital information such as computer program has a tendency to be distributed or sold directly to users via network, not using a conventional distribution structure. However, some point out the problem that it is difficult for the present to provide sufficient protection to the network-distributed computer program because the patent law stipulates that category of invention is mainly constituted from "product". We extracted problems on protection of network-distributed computer program under the patent law and suggested appropriate protection for inventions in these areas.

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3. Research and Study on Protection of the Results of Genome Research

   The recent rapid progress in genetic analysis technologies has led to successive produces in the genome research of DNA sequences or genes. Several unprecedented patent applications have been made for the results of genome research, and relationships between these rights are often in dispute. Given these circumstances, we have identified the issues peculiar to genome research from the technical, legal and practical points of view, and suggested appropriate future protection of the results of genome research.

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4. Research and Study on Establishment of an Economic Model for Patents (Patent Economics)

   We have carried out research and studies on this subject and attempted to analyze intellectual property (IP) rights, especially patents, from the perspective of economics and business administration in order to find a possible method to analyze patents. In this year's research, we started by examining recent pro-patent policy from an economics standpoint. Then, we attempted to analyze the current situation of intellectual property by using economic indexes and conducted examinations toward establishing an economic model for patents.

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5. Research and Study on the History of Industrial Develpments from the Viewpoint of Patent System

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6. Research and Study on the Next-Generation Specifications

   Presently, specifications are illustrated by text and monochrome drawings. This is making it difficult for applicants to illustrate complicated structures and movements or three-dimensional articles such as molecules, while also making it hard for readers to comprehend the contents. In our research and studies, we have tried to find the best method of illustration for the next-generation specifications and have examined the potential challenges in putting this method into practice. We have also created examples of the next-generation specifications by using new media, and thereby contributed basic data on desirable future specifications for further studies.

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7.   Research and Study on the Upgrading of IP Systems for Promoting Use of Digital Contents

  Last year, the Copyright Law and the Unfair Competition Prevention Law were amended to introduce new measures, including restrictions on copying equipment. This move indicates progress in legal systems concerning the protection of digital contents. We took the present situation of digital contents protection into consideration in our research and studies and aimed at presenting a suggestion from the perspective of promoting distribution of digital contents. We conducted research on specific issues, such as contents control technology, processing of rights, and centralized control of rights regarding digital contents, and extracted problems that needed to be examined.

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8. Research and Study on the Recent Trends in Legal Systems on Digital Contents in the US and the EU

   Based on the results of "Research and Study on the Legal Protection of Digital Contents" of 1998, we investigated the present situation of digital contents protection in the US and the EU in order to improve the digital contents protection system in Japan. We surveyed the protected legal interests, protected subject matter, and problems, etc. of the EU Database Directive that has been adopted and the EU Copyright Directive proposal currently under deliberation. We also examined the US Copyright Act that was amended last year and the database protection bill that is currently under deliberation.

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9. Research and Study on IP Expert Services

   The 21st century will be an era of intellectual creation, and expert services bolstering IP systems and supporting the globalizing IP strategies of enterprises, etc. are expected to play increasingly important roles. Therefore, we have surveyed industrial circles and patent attorneys on their needs for IP expert services in Japan, while also investigating similar services in the US and major European countries to examine desirable future IP expert services in Japan.

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10. Research and Study on Protection of Trademarks on the Internet

   With the development of e-commerce through the Internet, we have come to face new situations that were not assumed under the conventional trademark system. In order to deal with these situations, we have conducted discussions on the problems that arise from technologies peculiar to the Internet from the perspective of international private laws. We examined the extent to which these problems can be handled using basic trademark principles, and we furthered our knowledge of international issues such as governing law, court jurisdiction, enforcement, etc. to enable us to establish basic ideas for protection of trademarks on the Internet.

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11. Research and Study on Patent Invalidation and Infringement

   When a patent infringement suit is filed in Japan, a party must request the Japanese Patent Office for an invalidation trial in order to claim invalidation of the patent concerned. However, in the US and many countries in Europe, a defendant can make a plea for patent invalidation in an infringement suit. Therefore, we have investigated the current status of judicial practice in Japan and in the systems of other countries with regard to pleas for patent invalidation. We have assembled basic data for examining the desirable Japanese judicial system and the JPO's trial system in the future.

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12. Research and Study on the Desirable IP Systems for the 21st Century

   In Japan intellectual property rights (IPRs) becomes far more important than before, and IP systems are now being improved to strengthen IP protection. On the other hand, there is growing demand to secure free distribution and use of information. We have therefore examined the desirable IP systems, focusing on the ultimate purposes - namely to contribute to the development of industries through promoting innovation, keeping a proper balance between the effect of IP protection of information and the effect of free distribution and use of information.

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13. Research and Study on IP Issues concerning International Private Laws

   With the spread of the Internet, the number of international civil disputes over IP rights is expected to increase. Therefore, there is a growing need for discussions on problems concerning international private laws and their remedies. In this research and study, we have compared the legal systems, especially patent law and copyright law, of the US, the UK, Germany, and Japan with regard to the issues of court jurisdictions and governing laws for IP infringements, bearing in mind the problems concerning IP infringements on the Internet.

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14. Research and Study on Technical Standardization and Intellectual Property Rights

   Technical standardization, which benefits the public interest, and intellectual property rights, which protect property, are fundamentally opposed to each other. However, because both have become increasingly important and the speed of technical progress has become faster, it is getting more difficult to make adjustments between the two. Therefore, we have created basic data on the following for further studies: 1) the recent status of standardizing organizations; 2) examination of non-public standards related to patent pools, patent forums, etc.; 3) examination from the standpoint of IP laws and anti-monopoly law; and 4) investigation results on situations in the US and Europe.

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15. Research and Study on Intellectual Property in Asia

   The WTO/TRIPS Agreement taken into effect in January 1995 has obligated even developing countries to implement the Agreement by January 1, 2000. We have surveyed the latest status of establishment and actual operation of IP related laws in Asian countries (China, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Vietnam) as of January 1, 2000, and examined their compatibility with the TRIPS Agreement.

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16. Research and Study on the Prospect of IP Protection

   With the recent increase of recognition given to the importance of intellectual property, more researchers have been studying the subject and a large number of treatises and books on intellectual property have been published. However, there is no database that stocks these systematically. Accordingly, we have examined this issue and suggested an easy-to-use IP database.

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17. Patent Valuation and Patents Statistics
Robert H. Pitkethly
University Lecturer in Management Studies
University of Oxford

   Patent valuation is an extremely important issue in patent management, but the actual economic valuation of individual patents is not easy. This report introduces useful statistical approaches for studying about patent valuation, and examines various methods to conduct valuation of patents. It pays attention to the facts that risks involved in patents change over time and that the values of patents include diverse flexibility, and, therefore, suggests that an option pricing methods should be used in patent valuation.

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18. Economic Analysis of Public Disclosure of Patent Applications
Reiko Aoki
Senior Lecturer in the Economic Department
University of Auckland

   What is the most effective allocation of resources? What must we bear in mind when we evaluate the public disclosure of patent applications in terms of economic efficiency? This report cites specific cases and uses graphs to explain the most appropriate way to utilize inventions as patent information in improving the welfare of society as a whole when the current patent system grants exclusive rights in exchange for public disclosure (the economic analysis based on the game theory deserves particular attention).

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19. Now and Future of Opposition and Trial for Invalidation in Taiwan
Chin-Hsien Lee
Professor of Law
Fu Jen Catholic University

   The opposition system and invalidation trial system in Taiwan are not exactly functioning appropriately and sufficiently at present, and there has been a call for system reforms. Therefore, this report refers to the reform process of such systems in Japan in terms of practice, and compares as well as analyzes the legislative purposes, legal natures, statutory grounds, and statutory procedures of both the Japanese and Taiwanese opposition systems and invalidation systems. The report draws attention to the defects and points that need to be improved concerning the current Taiwanese system and presents its own ideas about possible legal amendment.

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20. A Comparative Study of the Japanese and Philippine Patent and Trademark Systems
Maria Theresa M. Cortes
Attorney at Law
The Republic of the Philippines

   The Republic of the Philippines, which became independent from the United States in 1945, established the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines in 1997 in order to develop its industries and to respond to the demand for international harmonization of intellectual property systems. This report conducts a detailed comparative study on Japanese and Philippine intellectual property laws, particularly patent and trademark laws. Thereby, it clarifies the characteristics of the systems of the two countries and points out what is required to establish more improved intellectual property systems from an international perspective.

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21. Changes in Subject Matter under the U.S. Patent Law - Focusing on the so-called "business method exception" -
Ryuta Hirashima
Associate Professor of Law
University of Tsukuba

   Patent law has constantly been pressed to take adequate legal measures against new challenges created by technological innovations. At present, heated debate is being engaged in over how inventions related to so-called business methods should be treated under patent law. This report examines the practical and theoretical measures sought under the U.S. Patent Law regarding this issue, particularly focusing on the trends of precedents and theories over the application of the Business Method Exception (a principle to exclude business methods from patentable subject matter). Thereby, the report squarely discusses the issue of judging the patentability of business-related inventions.

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22. U.S. Pro-Patent Policy:A Review of the Last 20 Years

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