Japan - Country Commercial Guide
Protecting Intellectual Property
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In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective protection of their intellectual property. For background, link to our article on Protecting Intellectual Property and Stopfakes.gov for more resources. 

For more information, contact ITA’s Office of Standards and Intellectual Property Rights (OSIP) Director, Stevan Mitchell at Stevan.Mitchell@trade.gov

U.S. trademarks and patents registrations will not protect those rights holders in Japan. “International Copyrights” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world do not exist, but many countries offer copyright protection to foreign works in accordance with international agreements. 

Patents and trademarks are registered in Japan are on a first-to-file basis. It is the responsibility of the rights’ holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. 

Companies should seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Japanese law. 

It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list himself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Work with legal counsel familiar with Japan laws to create a solid contract that includes locally recognized non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions. 

To access Japan’s ICS, which includes information on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, visit the U.S. Department of State Investment Climate Statement website.