Japan - Country Commercial Guide
Protecting Intellectual Property

Provides advice on IPR protection, including information on the registration of patents and trademarks.

Last published date: 2020-10-31

In any foreign market, U.S. companies should consider several general principles for effective protection of their intellectual property. For background, please read our article on how to Protect Your Intellectual Property and visit StopFakes.gov or contact ITA’s Office of Intellectual Property Rights 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.

Like patents, registering trademarks in Japan is 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 may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Japan 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.