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Pursuing the ideal form of intellectual property law by transcending boundaries between the humanities/sciences and regulations/research

Institute for Interdisciplinary Intellectual Property Study

The idea of legal protection for personal inventions, writings and intellectual property has rapidly spread and increased in importance in conjunction with the growth of scientific technology and industry in modern times. The idea of intellectual property has been present since long ago and patent rights have existed since several centuries ago. However, the movement to actively utilize intellectual property as a tool for innovation was born during the economic globalization which began from the 1980s. In the background of this movement is the increasingly complexity of the economy and scientific technology. For example, industrial activities are now performed across national borders. Several countries may participate in the development of a single product, or a single product may include components which were assembled in different countries.

It became an issue whether or not the riches created in the global market were being fairly returned the individual, corporation or nation that contributed to the creation of intellectual property. In the late 1980s, the U.S. pioneered pro-patent policy, which is industrial policy that places priority on intellectual property. Afterwards, this policy spread to Europe. In Japan, the enhancement of legal systems was performed from the late 1990s. The Intellectual Property Basic Act was enacted in March 2003. The Intellectual Property High Court, which handles disputes related to intellectual property, was established in 2005.

The establishment of rights for intellectual property is a controversial issue. For example, consider the case AIDS medicine, a revolutionary new treatment for cancer, or other discovery which has broad application to human life. Before such discoveries are limited by rights, the benefit should be delivered to the many people who are in need. In this example, public good is prioritized. On the other hand, in order to realize a society in which such revolutionary discoveries are continually made, it is necessary to provide a reward and recognition for the inventor who makes such discoveries. A cycle of social and economic value is required so that such creative work can be maintained. This is the purpose at the root of legal systems for intellectual property.

However, the development of basic framework for legal systems is insufficient for the realization for this ultimate ideal. It is also necessary to resolve differences between the different intellectual property systems in each country, as well as to negotiate international interests. It is also necessary to discuss the unique social and public aspects in a variety of fields such as scientific technology, medicine and design, as well as the specialized aspects of each such field. Currently, there is insufficient organization for an opportunity to promote such comprehensive debate.

In 2009, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Intellectual Property Study was established as a University Research Initiative at Waseda University. The institute seeks to create a center for comprehensive debate between intellectual property experts and a variety of interested parties who are involved in the creation or use of intellectual property. In addition to debating their respective interests, the debate would also take a broader perspective on other issues. We talked with Professor Ryu Takabayashi (Faculty of Law), Director of the institute, and Professor Toru Asahi (Faculty of Science and Engineering), a researcher at the institute.

Left: Professor Ryu Takabayashi (Faculty of Law), Director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Intellectual Property Study
Right: Professor Toru Asahi (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Seeking to form a comprehensive research institute

"As implied by the name, our institute was established in order to deepen the debate regarding the formation of a center in the future. Our future goal is to form a center which can be called a 'center for comprehensive research of intellectual property.' Full-scale interdisciplinary research which fuses the humanities and sciences is necessary in order to achieve this goal. Despite the large ratio of scientific technology within intellectual property, there aren't many opportunities for legal experts and scientific researchers to meet face-to-face and debate intellectual property. Although experts and researchers may meet one time at a symposium or other event, I have almost never heard of initiatives in which they work together to conduct research or projects. We believe that the development of legal systems for intellectual property is impossible without cooperation from both parties." (Professor Takabayashi)

The establishment of a research institute which fuses the humanities and sciences was a natural progression. For many years, Professor Takabayashi worked in court as a judge specializing in intellectual property. He has first-hand experience regarding the various contradictions and differences which exist in legal systems for intellectual property, as well as the operation of such systems. After entering employment at Waseda University, Professor Takabayashi served as Assistant Director of the Institute for Corporation Law and Society* (established in 2003) and implemented projects such as constructing the Database of Asian IP Precedents. There were also researchers with strong interest towards the form of legal systems for intellectual property in the field of science and engineering.
(*from 2003-2007, a program for the MEXT's 21st Century COE; from 2008, a program for the MEXT's Global COE)

In 2004, Waseda University established the Consolidated Research Institute for Advanced Science and Medical Care (ASMeW) as a research institute that fuses medicine, science and engineering. At the institute, there was increasing momentum regarding the need for scientific researchers to develop skills in technology management. In response, a new professional cultivation system known as STO (Super Technology Officer) was created for researchers in science and engineering. Young faculty members from the field of science and engineering sought to obtain their MBA from the School of Management at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University. The special title of STO is conferred on researchers who exhibit leadership in forming research networks with overseas institutions and who have acquired the qualities of an international research leader.

Professor Toru Asahi (Faculty of Science and Engineering) is a member of the 1st graduating class from the STO cultivation program. Together with Professor Tetsuya Osaka (Faculty of Science and Engineering), Professor Asahi strongly felt the need for comprehensive research in intellectual property from the perspective of technology management for researchers. The awareness of Professor Takabayashi, Professor Asahi and Professor Osaka combined to realize the establishment of a research institute through the fusion of the humanities and sciences.

"In order to improve the research environment in Japan, it is essential for researchers to possess knowledge regarding intellectual property. There must be more researchers who acquire more and more patents with the goal of encouraging research and development. I would also like to reflect the success of the research institute into the STO program. I hope to cultivate science and engineering students who understand intellectual property, recognize the importance of intellectual property, and understand intellectual property management." (Professor Asahi)

Deepening debate for the fusion of the humanities and sciences

Since its establishment in 2009, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Intellectual Property Study has approached a variety of fields with a focus on the Symposium for Fusion of the Humanities and Sciences, and has encouraged active interdisciplinary debate. A symposium entitled "The Humanities and Sciences: From Opposition to Cooperation-Seeking a utilization method for intellectual property which combines the humanities and sciences" was held in March 2010. Experts invited to speak at the symposium included Professor Shuji Nakamura (University of Santa Barbara, California), who is known as the inventor of the blue LED. From the position of researchers involved in top-level research competition, opinions were exchanged on the ideal form of intellectual property law from an international perspective. The symposium also featured in-depth debate between legal researchers and businesspeople.

Left: Poster for the symposium entitled "The Humanities and Sciences: From Opposition to Cooperation-Seeking a utilization method for intellectual property which combines the humanities and sciences." / Right: Poster for the symposium entitled "Soaring From the Ravine between the Humanities and Sciences-Searching for the essence of design and the future of legal protection" (March 2010), to which Mr. Kazuo Kawasaki (Professor at Osaka University and industrial designer was invited). Debate was conducted regarding issues related to design rights and intellectual property rights.

Furthermore, in order to combine medicine and law, a symposium entitled "Scientific Technology through Legal-Medical Cooperation & a New Social Order-Towards new growth for the 21st century medical system" was held in February 2011. Legal, ethical and institutional regulations in research and development fields such as medical devices and pharmaceuticals also interfere with aggressive research and development. Of course, fields related to human life require ethics and regulations. However, at the symposium, active debate was conducted between legal scholars and medical scholars in regards to how a line should be maintained between regulations and implementation when considering the progress of medicine.

In the field of health and medicine, a symposium entitled "Global Health and Intellectual Property Strategy: From barriers to incentive/utilization of investment-New development of a legal foundation to promote open innovation in the application of medical technology" was held in June 2011. Also, in order to focus on the hot topic of regenerative medicine using stem cells, a symposium entitled "Promoting Research for ES Cells and iPS Cells & Introducing Related Legal Issues/Intellectual Property Law Issues" was held in January 2012. Through such symposiums, there was multifaceted interdisciplinary debate connecting the fields of law, health and medicine.

"Promoting Research for ES Cells and iPS Cells & Introducing Related Legal Issues/Intellectual Property Law Issues"

Two fields which hold the key to medical progress are translational research, which serves as bridge between clinical practice and fundamental research, and regulatory science, which fills the gap between regulations/systems and scientific knowledge. Previously, there was little progress in either field due to the ravine of vertical relationships. It is said that Japan is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of practical development in the fields of medicine and bioscience. This lag is due to delay in such bridge-building and resolution of regulatory issues. Even if fundamental research or technology originates in Japan, researchers will not be rewarded if such developments do not reach the market or are not practically implemented. We must reach an agreement regarding the importance of promoting new medicine which is of great benefit to society and reconsidering regulatory aspects." (Professor Asahi)

The meaning of transmission from Japan to the world

The value and meaning of intellectual property change according to the conditions and times. In conjunction with such changes, it is necessary to continually debate the method of applying legal systems for intellectual property. We must take a global perspective and consider an appropriate balance between private interests and public interests.

"The legal system in modern Japan was created based on the continental law of Europe. However, after the end of World War II, our legal system has been strongly influenced by American law. In the field of intellectual property, current legal interpretation has been strongly influenced by American law and precedent. In terms of establishing a legal system that combines the two systems of Anglo-American law and continental law, Japan is a pioneer amongst other Asian countries such as China. As such, we must fulfill our role as a future model. Moreover, when considering the harmony of global law, Japan is in a position to contribute from an independent perspective unlike the U.S. or Europe." (Professor Takabayashi)

This perspective forms the background for the vision of establishing the Center for Comprehensive Research of Intellectual Property (provisional name) in the near future.

"Further debate is still needed before establishment of the center," says Professor Takabayashi. However, Waseda University strongly feels the need to lead the world in forming a center which will consider intellectual property legal systems from a global and comprehensive perspective. In the future, this strong feeling will continue to enable international debate that exceeds the boundaries between Anglo-American and continental law, between nations, between developing and advanced countries, and between specialized fields.

Records from past symposiums are listed in back numbers of the Intellectual Property Law Annual (Nippon Hyoronsha Publishing) and the I.P. Annual Report (supplementary NBL) (Shojihomu Publishing), magazines which are edited by Professor Takabayashi.

Related Links

Waseda University Institute for Interdisciplinary Intellectual Property Study
Waseda University Research Center for the Legal System of Intellectual Property
Waseda University Global COE Institute for Corporation Law and Society
Waseda University Consolidated Research Institute for Advanced Science and Medical Care (ASMeW)