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      DATE: July 14, 1997




First Session

Geneva, July 14 to 18, 1997


Memorandum of Japan

With the recent development of computer and telecommunications technologies, varieties of hardware and software are now put on the market at a reduced price and with improved performance, and papers are being replaced by electronic media such as CD-ROM products and the lnternet in the intellectual property arena. It is high time that intellectual property offices, including the International Bureau of the WIPO, work together to make the best use of the new information technologies for a more cost-effective administration and dissemination of intellectual property information.

What Japan has experienced and can contribute

The Japanese Patent Office (JPO) first introduced a computer system and started to store electronic records in 1964. Since then the JPO has continued to improve the system. All patent documents exceeding 30 million have been digitized and stored in an electronic database, which might be called a "digital library". A computerized patent search system called the "F-term system" has been developed for patent examiners to conduct searches of the electronic database. An electronic application filing system was also introduced in 1990 to allow applicants to file their applications by means of on-line data transmission or by mailing a flexible disk. Legal and technical hurdles were required to be cleared for the introduction of the electronic filing system. These included prevention of transmission errors, identification of applicants and payment of fees as well as development of the specific software designed for the electronic filing. The JPO's experience is full of successes and failures, both of which will provide the WIPO with good lessons.

Based on its experience and expertise, the JPO has been participating in the Trilateral Cooperation on information activities, and has also been leading discussion within the forum of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) regarding intellectual property collective actions, including the creation of the "IP information Mall", a network of Homepages in the region for the global dissemination of intellectual property information. Japan would be happy to contribute to information technology activities within the WIPO.

What should the WIPO do in the next biennium?

In respect of information technologies, Japan would like to suggest that the following actions should be initiated in the remainder of 1997 and the next biennium.

Action 1: Commence priority tasks on a step by step basis

When agreeing tasks to be addressed as to the use of information technologies, the WIPO should give the priority to those tasks according to the needs of users and intellectual property offices as well as according to their feasibility. Japan considers the following to be priority tasks to be immediately launched, while they can be concurrently implemented.

Task A: Computerization of the administration within the IB

The International Bureau (IB) assumes, in particular in the context of registration activities, functions similar to those of intellectual property offices that are amenable to computerization for enhancing cost-effectiveness. In the case of PCT, for instance, the computerization should be further promoted by improving the systems existing within the IB. The next step is to digitize the data transfer between the IB and Receiving Offices and between the IB and International Search or International Preliminary Examining Authorities. For instance, the RO can digitize application data and the IB can forward these data to offices and authorities.

Task B: Automation of intellectual property office's administration

Duplication should be eliminated among intellectual property offices with respect to efforts and investment for the development of automated administration. The WIPO should develop or assist in developing "global standard software," which is based on a software package and is capable of being customized to meet respective domestic requirements. Such software will also facilitate the exchange of data between offices.

Task C: Creation of a Web site for dissemination

With the globalization of economic activities, more and more intellectual property information has been used by business sectors worldwide and therefore should be disseminated as widely as possible. Accordingly, the WIPO should assist national offices in creating a Web site or a homepage through the lnternet for the purpose of worldwide dissemination of intellectual property information. A large number of offices have already created their own homepages and others are in the process of preparing for the creation of a homepage. The WIPO should be positive in providing technical assistance and organizing a "global network" by linking all the relevant lnternet homepages.

Task D: Networking between offices for the purpose of exchanging data

With respect to the exchange of data among offices, the use of electronic means should be pursued as much as possible. This task should be implemented in line with the recommendation made by the PCIPI regarding the changeover of exchange media from papers to CD-ROM products, and with a recommendation recently adopted by the MI regarding the "IP Digital Library" through the network. Just for reference in this regard, the JPO, EPO, and USPTO have been, since 1989, exchanging patent information through electronic media (a standardized magnetic tape). The three offices share electronic data among themselves and have managed to tremendously reduce its digitizing cost. Exchange of intellectual property information will also enhance the quality of search and examination, while minimizing the cost of collecting information from other offices.

Action 2: Promote developmental cooperation

The use of information technologies should be enhanced and facilitated not only for large offices but also for small or medium-sized offices. Modernization of intellectual property offices should be beneficial not only to those offices but also to all users worldwide. With this in mind, the WIPO should encourage developing countries to participate in WIPO information technology activities and should also provide technical and financial assistance for developing countries in promoting computerization. Such cooperative activities should include the development of "global standard software" for developing countries, exchange of intellectual property information among national offices including developing countries and dissemination of intellectual property information to users in developing countries through the lnternet.

Action 3: Strengthen the IB

The IB should be responsible for preparing, administering or implementing, as the case may be, master plans to be adopted by the WIPO. To this end, the capacity of the IB should be further strengthened not only in terms of the number of its staff but also in terms of proficiency in computer and telecommunications technologies. And also, relevant departments or sections within the IB should be so structured that the expected missions of the IB should be fully and efficiently performed.

Why should the ITC be established?

The exiting PCIPI should be developed into the ITC with new, expanded mandates. Why should a new body be established in place of the PCIPI and why should it report to the General Assembly? First, it is ripe and urgent to establish the ITC in the light of the recent development of new information technologies and of the rapid growth of lnternet technology. Second, the ITC should deal with horizontal issues which are related to various intellectual property information-related activities governed by different bodies. While eliminating the duplication of work, coherent activities should be accomplished with the oversight of the ITC. Third, since most information-related activities involve much time and investment, they require continued management. Fourth, and most importantly, the ITC should be able to make recommendations to the General Assembly in respect of financial implication and to the Director General in respect of office automation of the International Bureau. These considerations lead us to believe that the ITC should be established under the Assembly of the WIPO.

What should be the scope of activities of the ITC?

The ITC is a WIPO governing body to make decisions on the use of information technologies in the intellectual property arena. These decisions should be made at least on the following activities:

1 . Surveying the current level of information technologies as well as of automation of intellectual property offices' administrations.

2. Identifying priority projects.

3. Developing a master plan for the short, medium and long term for individual projects.

4. Funding projects.

5. Strengthening the IB and securing necessary human resources for the implementation of projects.

6. Monitoring and coordinating the implementation of projects.

Concluding Summary

Japan believes it is urgent to establish the ITC with new mandates under the General Assembly to discuss information technologies and to take advantage of this new technology for the cost-effective administration of national offices, and the International Bureau of the WIPO, in particular, with respect to registration activities. The immediate work to be embarked on by the ITC will include the networking of intellectual property offices for the "seamless" on-line sharing of intellectual property information and the dissemination of intellectual property information among users. Particular efforts should also be devoted to the automation of administration within the IB. To implement these priority tasks, well-organized master plans should be developed through a transparent decision making process. Japan would be happy to contribute to the development of such master plans and is ready to present constructive ideas for consideration at a later stage. The Japanese Government would also be willing to dispatch experts experienced with paper-less systems to work for information technology related departments or sections, the capacity of which should be strengthened to make the ITC initiatives really workable.

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