The Future of the Patent System
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The Future of the Patent System

Edited by Ryo Shimanami

In a rapidly changing world, the underlying philosophies, the rationale and the appropriateness of patent law have come under question. In this insightful collection, the authors undertake a careful examination of existing patent systems and their prospects for the future. Scholars and practitioners from Japan, the US, Europe, India, Brazil and China give detailed analyses of current and likely future problems with their respective systems, and outline possible responses to them.
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Chapter 6: Issues and possible solutions in Japan: patent filing activities of Japanese companies, resulting backlog problem, and possible solutions

Futoshi Yasuda


The 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln once said, “The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius.” As symbolically pointed out by this remark, the primary role of the patent system has always been to give an incentive for inventors to pursue innovation by granting exclusive rights to them and to develop industry by promoting technological development. In fact, there were many examples where the inventor of a significant invention obtained a patent on the invention and developed related business and provided society with further technological developments. These examples indicate that the patent system has played an important role in industrial development. However, in addition to these merits, the patent system gradually has been spinning off demerits as well. In recent years, the patent system has not necessarily contributed to industrial development because it has caused new types of issues such as the proliferation of patent portfolios containing a great number of patents, the growth of patent thickets made of defensive patents, the growing patent backlog as a result of largevolume patent filing activity, and the emergence of patent trolls. These issues are attributable to the diversification of the functions of the patent system caused by such changes as the expansion of the scope of patent protection, an increase of patent players both in number and type, the changes in the environment surrounding inventors, and the reevaluation of patents in business activities.

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