The potential value of intellectual property rights will grow in parallel with the globalization of corporate activities, while the need to protect these rights will also be greater than ever.
The fact that the Uruguay Round negotiations resulted in formulation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), achieving significant progress in harmonization of countries' intellectual property rights systems, can be praised. However, the counterfeit products pervading developing country markets, and the imposition in some countries of patent systems which do not conform with international norms, have left the intellectual property rights of Japanese companies on unstable situation, impeding international business activities. At the next negotiations, the Japanese Government should take the initiative toward the development of intellectual property rights protection systems in developing countries and the international harmonization of patent systems.
Under the TRIPS Agreement, developing countries and least-developed countries are obligated to develop intellectual property rights systems after a certain transitional period. To ensure the establishment of appropriate regime, the Japanese Government should actively urge these countries to develop the related legislation and administrative mechanisms, as well as to educate and raise the awareness of the public, while also providing the necessary cooperation for regime building and human resource development. Strengthening intellectual property rights protection in developing countries will also have great merit for developing countries themselves in that it will promote technology transfer from developed countries.
While Article 40 of the TRIPS Agreement allows licensing regulations aimed at preventing the anti-competitive abuse of rights, in order to facilitate investment and technology transfer, developing countries should be requested to amend their technology introduction laws and licensing regulation guidelines to bring these into consistency with the TRIPS.
Patents are one important pillar of intellectual property rights, making transparent and stable international rules essential. The WTO must work with WIPO on the international harmonization of patent systems.
The adoption by some countries of the first-to-invent system is impairing the predictability of the patent system. The first-to-file system should be adopted as an international standard so that countries can determine when to file patent applications on the basis of equitable rules.
As some countries have not yet adopted early publication systems, unintended patent infringements can occur. To prevent such infringements, all countries should introduce early publication systems.
Many countries have made little progress in developing the related legislation on trade secrets, and the WTO should consider how to provide the necessary legal protection.