An International Guide to
Patent Case Management for Judges

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7.1.1 History of patent law

The establishment of a patent system in Japan coincided with the opening of the country and its emergence as a modern industrialized nation state during the Meiji era.2 A patent system was considered necessary to support modernization efforts during this period. The Meiji Government enacted a patent law in 1871. However, it was not used and so was abandoned the following year. The first substantial patent law – the Patent Monopoly Act – was enacted on April 18, 1885, and the first patents were granted in August 1885, the very first being for “Hotta’s Method for Rust Stopping Paint and Painting Method.”3 In 1899, Japan became a member of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.4 At this time, foreigners were admitted into the Japanese industrial property system.

A 1921 revision of the patent law formed the basis of the current patent system in Japan. Its provisions included a “first-to-file” system, employee ownership of patent rights and an opposition system.5 The 1921 law was replaced in 1959 by the current Patent Act,6 which has been the subject of a number of amendments, including to ensure compliance with the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).7