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Q&A on Intellectual Property

Here, we’ll answer your questions about the handling of intellectual property at the university in the form of Q&As. If you cannot find your question, contact

Basic knowledge about intellectual property rights

Q1-1 What in the first place are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights protect the valuable property generated from human intellectual activities, such as creation, imagination, and ingenuity (intellectual property). It includes patent rights, utility model rights, trademark rights, design rights, copyrights, and other similar rights.
For researchers, valuable research outcomes (including tangible and intangible assets) generated from the intellectual activity of research are the target of protection by intellectual property rights.

Q1-2 What are the advantages of having intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights provide the inventor or the creator of the target with exclusive rights in return for publishing the information.
Researchers are provided with the legal right not to let other people use their intellectual property of various types without permission. Companies are provided with the exclusive right to use the creation or invention in return for the risk and investment in product development.

Q1-3 Why do universities have to acquire intellectual property rights?

Most research at universities in Japan is paid for through national taxes. In recent years, the government and universities have been aiming to enhance Japan’s scientific and technological capabilities and to contribute to citizens and the nation by sharing valuable research outcomes with society by commercializing the invention. In order to transfer intellectual creations by universities to companies for commercialization, the rights should be secured. This is why universities need to acquire intellectual property rights to their own inventions.

Handling of inventions at the university

What kinds of things have the university invented?

Information Science : Measurement instruments, communication methods, etc.
Biological Sciences : Experimental animals and plants, cells, DNA, screening methods, etc.
Material Science : New chemical compounds, semiconductor circuits, special materials, biomaterials, etc.
*Programs and database are handled as copyrighted works.

Q2-2 What are employee inventions?

The university handles inventions developed by faculty members under employment contracts with the university through intellectual activities conducted within the range of research themes at the university using the university’s equipment (including computers and library) as employee inventions. Such inventions, in principle, belong to the university. An invention developed by a faculty member in Information Science, for example, at home through an experiment in the field of biology as a hobby, which is not related to his own research theme, is not handled as an employee invention.

Q2-3 Who should I talk to after having developed an invention?

Handling of inventions is conducted by the Center for Industry-Government-Academia Collaboration. Feel free to consult with the Center even when you are not sure it’s an invention or when you need advice in developing an invention through future research. If you have created an invention, submit the Notification of Invention. Then, the person in charge will visit you for a hearing, and you will give a presentation, based on which all members of the Center discuss whether the university will succeed the invention. (For details, see the graphic explanation in “For your invention.”)

Q2-4 What if an invention is developed through collaborative research?

Tell the Center for Industry-Government-Academia Collaboration that an invention has been developed. In the case of collaborative research, how to handle the invention will be based on a collaborative research agreement (when the other party is a company) or through dialog between the parties (when the other party is an academic organization).

Q2-5 What if an invention is developed from a side job?

Tell the Center for Industry-Government-Academia Collaboration that an invention has been developed. In the case of a side job, we will follow the previous agreement with the manager of the job.

Q2-6 Do we have to acquire a patent when creating an invention?

When an employee’ s invention is completed, it will be reviewed at an evaluation meeting to decide whether it should be attributed to the university (judgment about succession). The handling of an invention that will be attributed to the university will be secured by the Center for Industry-Government-Academia Collaboration while listening to the inventor’s intent including whether we should apply for a patent. We submit a patent application for most inventions attributed to the university, but not for all of them because we protect the rights to some intellectual property (such as program works and research materials) with a copyright or agreement.

Q2-7 How do you acquire a patent?

We submit a patent application to the Patent Office. In Japan, the examination at the Patent Office starts by requesting an examination within three years after the patent application. If it is found that there is a similar prior art technology through the examination, they will decline to award a patent (notice of reasons for refusal). If you can successfully deal with it (for example by arguing against it or revising your application), you are awarded a patent. It will take two to three years (by the university’s standard) to acquire a patent after the request for examination.

Q2-8 Does the copyright for a program written during the process of research belong to the writer?

Such copyright is also attributed to the university, in principle. Intellectual property rights will be returned to the individual inventor when the university cannot find a need or value to submit an application. In that case, you can handle it freely as your own property.