In Japan, money lending operations are subject to certain licensing requirements. That said, it is generally understood that a registration under the Money Lending Business Act is not required to purchase existing receivables. Thus, it may be easier for non-Japanese financial institutions to acquire receivables as opposed to making loans using funds from their own accounts. However, a recent Osaka District Court judgment suggests that this may not always be the case.
Financial institutions that have no operations in Japan can readily acquire loans made to Japanese borrowers by purchasing the receivables relating to such loans. A number of requirements and considerations must be taken into account when transferring loan receivables, including with regard to novation, money lending operations, registered money lenders, perfection and the upcoming amendments to the Civil Code.
If a securities registration statement contains a material misstatement, investors that acquire securities through the relevant offering can hold the issuing company liable for related damages. However, it is unclear what level of damages is recoverable if the issuing company successfully proves that the loss incurred by the investor is at least partly attributable to an unrelated factor or circumstance. A recent Supreme Court judgment has provided some clarity in this regard.
The Kyoto District Court recently ruled in favour of a shareholder's petition that a listed issuer cease an offering of its new shares by third-party allotment on the grounds that the offering had been conducted through an 'extremely unfair method', despite having been approved by a resolution at the issuer's shareholders' meeting. The court adopted the main purpose rule in accordance with prior court rulings and concluded that the share offering's main purpose had been to reduce the petitioning shareholder's shareholding.
Foreign private issuers' bonds that are listed on a Japanese securities exchange, such as the Tokyo Pro-Bond Market (TPBM), are subject to both the insider trading rules and the fair disclosure rules under Japanese law, while non-listed bonds (so-called 'Samurai bonds') are not. This article provides a brief explanation of the rules that apply to offerings of Samurai bonds and bonds listed on the TPBM under Japanese securities law.
The newly introduced fair disclosure rule enacted under Japan's securities laws and regulation regime is most often considered to apply to issuers of listed shares. However, based on the clear wording of the rule, it is also applicable to issuers whose only listed securities are bonds. Although the majority of bonds issued in the Japanese market are unlisted, there is a market dedicated to listed bonds in Japan: the Tokyo Pro-Bond Market.
The recent amendments to the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act introduced the fair disclosure rule, preventing listed issuers from making selective disclosure of their material information in order to ensure market fairness and transparency. This rule differs to the insider trading rule, which was introduced in 1989 with a similar aim of ensuring fairness and transparency by prohibiting parties with knowledge of undisclosed material facts regarding listed issuers from trading the securities of such issuers.
A new commitment procedure was recently introduced to the Anti-monopoly Act (AMA), enabling enterprises to voluntarily resolve suspected violations of the AMA with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC). If a commitment is approved, the conduct of the enterprise concerned will not be considered a violation of the AMA and the enterprise will not be subject to legal penalties. The new procedure may lead to more active enforcement by the JFTC.
A number of amendments to Japan's labour and employment laws recently took effect. Among other things, the amendments concern the monitoring of employee working hours, paid annual leave, the so-called 'highly professional system' and overtime limits. Employers should ensure that their policies and practices comply with the amendments to ensure an easy transition to Japan's new employment framework.
Under Japanese law, employers must – in principle – pay an allowance to employees who work more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week. As such, from an employer's perspective, it is practical to include an employee's overtime allowance in their base salary where possible. However, for an employee's overtime allowance to be validly included in their base salary, certain requirements must be satisfied. These requirements are a hot topic in Japanese legal practice.
The National Diet recently enacted a bill relating to work style reform, which has amended the Labour Standards Act, the Industrial Safety and Health Act and relevant laws. Most amendments will come into effect on 1 April 2019. The amended Labour Standards Act stipulates that the upper limit for overtime will be, in principle, 45 hours a month and 360 hours a year. However, there are exceptions for certain business sectors.
One of the controversial issues regarding Japan's so-called 'lifetime employment system' is whether and to what extent employers can impose different working conditions (eg, salaries, bonuses and allowances) when they rehire employees who were once non-fixed-term employees as fixed-term employees. The Supreme Court recently handed down a significant decision addressing this issue.
Article 20 of the Labour Contract Act prohibits the imposition of unreasonable employment conditions on fixed-term employees in order to ensure their fair treatment. In light of two recent Supreme Court decisions on this matter, Japanese employers with both fixed-term and permanent employees should carefully review whether differences in the individual employment conditions of each type of employee are not unreasonable.
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.