Friday, September 15, 2017

Border Enforcement: China stays top in originating country of infringing imported goods into Japan

The US initiated Section 301 investigation of Chinese trade practices from the aspect of IP infringement, technology transfer and innovation. Regardless of whether Section 301 should be used, the issue of IP infringement by Chinese companies is not someone else's problem for Japan.

On September 8, the Japanese government published statistics on import suspension of IP infringing goods into Japan during the first half of this year.

The number of import suspension cases is 15,393, that shows an increase of 11.1% on the same period last year. However, the number of import suspension goods is down 4.8% (278,964 goods) from the same period last year. It may be because of increase in mail transportation caused by expansion of e-commerce.

Note: "Number of import suspension cases" is the number of import declarations or mails that contain IP infringing goods that the customs suspended. "Number of import suspension goods" is the number of IP infringing goods that the customs suspended. 

As for the country of origin, 14,282 import suspension cases (92.8% of the total) came from China, that is rise of 12.5% on the same period last year, and China remains top for the 7th consecutive year.
China files more than 1 million patent applications in a year, regardless of quality of the patents, and it is becoming an IP major power. Furthermore, the Chinese government is driving forward utilizing patents. Such circumstances should increase awareness of IP issues in more Chinese companies, and contribute to reduction of IP infringement.  

By types of intellectual property, most of the cases are import suspension due to trademark infringement  (15,147 cases or 98% of the total; 159,488 goods or 57.2% of the total). The remarkable change comparing to the same period last year is the increase of design right cases. 77,789 goods were suspended due to design right infringement.  It is approximately 18 times more than the same period last year. Recently, Japanese companies recognize the importance of design to improve product competitiveness, thus they may increasingly use design right for enforcement. As for patent, only 15 cases (0.1% of the total) or 21,390 goods (7.7% of the total) were suspended. Compared with trademark or design which are distinguishable in appearance, patent is not easy to check at the customs. We should recognize the importance of "detectability" (of infringing goods) and "provability" (of infringement) that are measuring factors often used in the evaluation of patents.

Please refer to IPR Boarder Enforcement for details on the procedure for import suspension in Japan.

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