The proposed amendment to the Act on Special Measures Concerning the Procurement of Renewable Energy-Sourced Electricity by Electric Utilities will introduce a feed-in premium (FIP) programme. The proposed FIP programme provides that power producers will receive a premium in addition to the market price for the electricity which they generate instead of the fixed electricity price determined by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry under the current feed-in-tariff programme.
As the Civil Code is the basic private law in Japan, the amended version will have a significant impact on the legal aspects of people's lives and their business relationships. Moreover, many of its provisions will affect IP licence agreements. This article addresses these provisions in greater detail, including in relation to non-conformity in contract subject matter, contract cancellation and pre-formulated terms and conditions.
In 2017 the Civil Code, which was enacted in 1896, was substantially amended for the first time in more than a century. Although the amendments, which came into effect on 1 April 2020, cover a broad range of issues, many were made to reflect existing case law and commonly accepted interpretations of the pre-amended Civil Code. However, there are some changes which may affect current practices in the energy sector.
Since April 2018, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has required business operators involved in solar power generation to set aside a certain amount of funds in preparation for the decommissioning of solar power plants. However, as of January 2019, less than 5% of business operators had complied with this rule. As such, METI established a working group to tackle the problems with the discretionary decommissioning reserve regime.
Cabinet recently approved the Proposal to Amend the Electricity Business Act for the Purposes of Establishing a Resilient and Sustainable Electricity System. The bill introduces a feed-in premium programme, under which energy developers developing projects after April 2022 may receive a certain premium on top of the market price for the electricity that they generate.
It appears inevitable that the coronavirus pandemic will affect Japan's solar energy industry. For example, China's public health measures may have an adverse effect on the shipment of photovoltaic modules and other equipment manufactured there, on which many Japanese developers rely. Further, if the government declares a national emergency, this may inhibit engineering, procurement and construction contractors' ability to perform their obligations to develop and construct solar projects.
Japan's mining industry has recently enjoyed renewed interest thanks to technological advancements that have identified or made accessible various significant on-shore and offshore mineral deposits. This article examines the Mining Law – established in 1950 – and its application. Notably, the law distinguishes between minerals generally and those that are determined by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Infrastructure to be especially important to the Japanese economy.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism recently designated an area off the coast of Goto City as the first zone dedicated to the promotion of offshore wind projects under the Act Promoting the Use of Marine Areas for the Development of Marine Renewable Energy Generation Facilities. This designation is unique in that, of the 11 areas initially considered, Goto City was the only sea area where floating wind power generation was proposed.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently announced on its website that a Cabinet Order of 1 November 2019 had declared that the revised Design Act would come into force on 1 April 2020. This article provides a summary of the revised act's expanded scope of IP protection for building and interior designs.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is considering the introduction of a power generation base fee for feed-in tariff (FIT) eligible power generation companies. The wheeling charge could affect current FIT-certified projects as well as future FIT-eligible projects. It is understood that the ministry is aiming to introduce this fee in 2023.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently announced on its website that a Cabinet order of 1 November 2019 had declared that the reformed Design Act will come into force on 1 April 2020. Under the revised act, the scope of what constitutes a protectable design will be expanded; however, protection will be limited to commercial activities and not extended to using graphic images registered as designs for private activities.
Although Japan has significant offshore renewable energy output potential, a number of issues – both systemic and technological – have hindered efforts to develop its offshore renewable market. With the introduction of the Act on Promoting the Use of Marine Areas for the Development of Marine Renewable Energy Generation Facilities, the government aims to develop such offshore renewable energy capacity and encourage and facilitate the development of offshore renewable projects in Japan.
Japan's patent litigation system has often been said to offer insufficient protection to patentees. As such, recent amendments to the Patent Act aim to improve the effectiveness of the patent litigation system and make it more favourable to patentees (especially small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups) by introducing a new evidence collection system and a new methodology for calculating damages.
A recent IP High Court case concerned the cancellation of a trademark registration due to a non-exclusive licensee's improper use of the registered mark. Cases regarding cancellation based on Article 53 of the Trademark Act are rare, and cases in which requests to cancel a trademark registration on this basis are granted are even more so. As such, this case is an interesting example of how the IP High Court determines improper use of a registered trademark.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently announced that the Cabinet has approved the Bill for the Reform of the Patent and Design Acts, which will now be submitted to the Diet. This article provides a summary of the reformed Design Act, which has – among other things – expanded the scope of protected designs, improved the related design system and increased the duration of design rights.
In Japan, Customs can seize goods during export or import where they infringe various IP rights. If Customs suspects that certain goods infringe IP rights, it will initiate an identification procedure and notify both the importer and the IP rights holder. If the goods are found to infringe IP rights and no voluntary disposal measures were taken during the protest period, Customs may confiscate and destroy the infringing goods.
Collecting, analysing, combining and processing large amounts of information is critical to the development of the information industry, as exemplified by the Internet of Things, Big Data analytics and artificial intelligence. However, since information often includes copyrighted works, its use can constitute copyright infringement even where there is no harm to the copyright owner. To resolve these problems, acts amending the Copyright Act and the Unfair Competition Prevention Act were recently enacted.
In a recent case, Red Bull AG claimed that a trademark registered by Korean company Bullsone Co, Ltd should be invalidated due to the likelihood of confusion as to the source of the designated goods. A notable point in this case was the difference in position taken by the Japan Patent Office Trial and Appeal Board and the IP High Court with regard to the relevant trademarks and the evidence to be considered when determining the well-known status of the cited mark.
A Japanese company recently claimed that a Chinese company's trademark should be invalidated due to its similarity with the plaintiff's trademarks and the likelihood of confusion as to the source of the designated goods. Although the Japanese Patent Office Trial and Appeal Board rejected the plaintiff's claims, the IP High Court overturned this decision. The conclusive factor in the case was the way in which the similarity of marks should be assessed when they are intended to be stitched on certain goods.
The Tokyo District Court recently rendered its judgment in a patent infringement case regarding fintech-related technologies. This case has been widely reported on in Japan because both parties are major venture businesses and leaders in the Japanese fintech market. This case is also notable as the defendant's cloud-based accounting system involved machine-learning technologies and disputes of this nature are expected to increase.