Latest updates

Court dismisses Starbucks's trademark invalidation request despite survey results
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 10 May 2021

The IP High Court recently confirmed the Japan Patent Office (JPO) Trial and Appeal Board's decision to dismiss Starbucks Corporation's request to invalidate a trademark which had a similar composition to that of its own. To prove that the composition of its trademark was well known and characteristic, Starbucks conducted a survey through a research company using an image that had undergone mosaic processing. However, the JPO and the IP High Court found that the survey was inappropriate.

Updates to solar FIT decommissioning fee regulations
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 19 April 2021

In June 2020 a bill was enacted pursuant to which the Japanese authorities can withhold a portion of payments under a power purchase agreement that will instead be placed in a reserve to cover decommissioning costs. While the final decommissioning regulations have not yet been published, a detailed outline of the regulations was recently published for public comment.

Biomass power generation: supply and sustainability
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 05 April 2021

Biomass-fuelled power generation facilities continue to play an important role in Japan's renewable energy portfolio. While the requirements in this respect are complex, interest in biomass renewable energy remains strong. Further, it is anticipated that as the sustainability rules applicable to woody and agricultural biomass fuels are settled, interest and investment in the biomass industry will continue to accelerate. This article provides an overview of the sustainability rules applicable in Japan.

Reformed Design Act expands protection for graphic images
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 22 March 2021

The reformed Design Act came into force in 2020. This act expands the scope of protection for graphic images, meaning that they need not be recorded or displayed on articles (eg, computers or smartphones) to be considered protectable designs. According to statistics from the Japan Patent Office, 685 such applications had been filed as of January 2021.

Update on FIT certificate nullification procedure
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 23 November 2020

A significant component of the recently approved Proposal to Amend the Electricity Business Act for the Purposes of Establishing a Resilient and Sustainable Electricity System is the nullification of feed-in tariff (FIT) certificates. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has recently published a series of notices that provide further clarity on how the nullification will take effect and METI's intention to create exemptions for certain FIT certificate holders.

Revisions to Copyright Act to tackle online pirating
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 23 November 2020

In the past decade, the Japanese manga and entertainment industries have been severely damaged by pirate sites which typically operate on servers located in jurisdictions lacking sufficient copyright protection. To address these issues, the 2020 revisions to the Copyright Act introduced new measures to crack down on leech websites and expand the scope of illegal downloading.

METI proposes maximum procurement price of offshore wind power for four promotion zones
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 02 November 2020

The Committee on Procurement Price Calculation of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recently announced a recommendation to set the maximum procurement price that bidders may propose in their development plans for offshore wind renewable energy power generation facilities at Y29 per kilowatt hour. This recommendation reduces the standard procurement price by approximately 20%. The reduction is not expected to affect the pre-tax internal rate of return for developers.

First tender process under new offshore wind law underway
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 31 August 2020

The government recently commenced the first tender process under Japan's new offshore wind law for a floating wind project off the coast of Goto City. This article summarises the key elements of the Occupancy Guidelines for the Goto Offshore Area which, although specific to the Goto project, provide insight as to the Japanese authorities' general approach towards the implementation of the offshore wind law and how the tender processes for the other identified sites will proceed.

IP-related support declaration for measures against COVID-19
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 15 June 2020

The development, production and provision of therapeutic medications, vaccines, medical devices and infection control products are necessary to diagnose, prevent, contain and treat COVID-19. Patent owners and other IP rights holders must therefore cooperate with each other and support new ideas to prevent the spread of COVID-19 without hindering development in the IP sector. To this end, an IP-related solution was recently announced in Japan – namely, the Open COVID-19 Declaration.

FIP programme introduced
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 04 May 2020

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.

Effects of Civil Code amendment on IP licence agreements
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 20 April 2020

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.

Impact of Civil Code reform on energy and natural resource transactions
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 06 April 2020

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.

Solar FIT decommissioning fee
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 30 March 2020

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 approves Renewable Energy Act amendment bill
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 23 March 2020

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.

Impact of coronavirus on solar projects
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 23 March 2020

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.

Introduction to Mining Law
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 09 March 2020

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.

New breeze: floating offshore wind
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 10 February 2020

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.

Expanded protection for building and interior designs under revised Design Act
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 27 January 2020

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.

Proposed introduction of feed-in tariff wheeling fee
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Energy & Natural Resources
  • Japan
  • 27 January 2020

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.

Expanded protection for graphic images under revised Design Act
Nishimura & Asahi
  • Intellectual Property
  • Japan
  • 16 December 2019

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.