As reported recently, Japanese leaders are giving greater attention to industrial designs and their usefulness to businesses for promoting the image and attractiveness of products and services. The Japan Patent Office is preparing a proposal for revision of the Design Act, to submit to next year's regular Diet session. Some details were released in August.

If passed, requirements would be loosened and possibilities for use of designs expanded. For one, duration of protection would expand from 20 to 25 years (similar to in the USPTO and EPO). Also, design registration for such things as website layouts, or interior and exterior designs of buildings may become possible. In addition, multiple-design simultaneous applications would be allowed.

Japanese businesses and the government are recognizing that designs can set apart technologically or functionally similar products. The Nikkei Shimbun noted that design owners were keeping their designs active to full term 5% more in 2016 than five years previous.

For businesses entering or growing in Japan, the expanded usefulness of industrial designs should encourage strategic planning for the branding and attractiveness of their products and services. After all, Japanese people tend to place a high premium on visual appeal and first-time impressions. These changes to the Design Act may help all put their best foot forward, further.

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