What is Intellectual Property?

What are intellectual property rights? This is explained in plain language on the JPO website. To summarize.

Article 1 of the Patent Law states: "The
purpose of this Law is to encourage inventions and thereby contribute to the development of industry by protecting and exploiting invent ions.

If inventions and ideas are not properly protected by the system, people will try to keep them secret so that others will not steal them.
However, this means that the inventors themselves will not be able to use it effectively, and others will waste their research and investment in trying to invent the same thing.
The intellectual property system grants exclusive rights to inventors for a certain period of time in order to make their inventions available to the public, promote their use, promote the advancement of new technologies, and contribute to the development of industry.

What are design rights?

Intellectual property rights include patent rights, utility model rights, design rights, and trademark rights, etc.
SYRINX holds a large number of patent rights, design rights, and trademark rights, the largest number of which are design rights.
Design rights protect designs such as patterns, colors, architectural shapes, and images. Design rights arise when an application is filed with the Japan Patent Office, undergoes examination, and is registered.
In this column, we will discuss design rights in more depth.

Design Infringement

Design infringement is the act of selling, importing, or renting a product with the same or similar design to a registered design without the permission of the design owner, even though the exclusive right to the design exists. Design infringement is prohibited under the Design Law.

So, what constitutes design infringement?

A major misconception is that it is not only the exact same design as the registered design that is protected.
The use of a similar design also constitutes design infringement.

Examples of Design Rights

Let us explain Hitoe Fold, which has acquired many intellectual property rights, in some detail.
After the first Hitoe Fold was released, many compact wallets with a similar concept were created in the market. (See "Genealogy of Small and Thin Wallets. ") This in
itself is the significance of the intellectual property right mentioned at the beginning of this article, and it can be said that one idea contributes to new development, which is a positive cycle for society.

On the other hand, Hitoe Fold holds one patent and three design patents to protect its core ideas and designs.

To give an example, the figure below shows Hitoe Fold's design registration 1659079. The registration protects the basic design of this wallet. The dotted line is not included in the application and only the part painted in red is registered. This is a partial design registration.

What is a partial design?
The Patent Office has revised the law so that designs relating to parts of an article are also protected because of the increasing number of clever imitations that incorporate original and characteristic parts while avoiding infringement of the design as a whole, and which fail to adequately protect the investment. (Edited from "Industrial Property Law (Industrial Property Law): A Verbatim Commentary" by the Japan Patent Office)

Hitoe Fold 意匠登録

The original features of this registration are as follows

The coin pocket is on the top and the card pocket is on the bottom, with multiple cards stacked on top of each other and an opening on the side.
The card pocket has a three-dimensional gusset and is just the right size for credit cards.
The coin pocket and card pocket are separated by a single layer of leather stitched on the surface.

Examples of possible similarity

As mentioned earlier, design rights protect not only exactly the same design, but also similar designs. In many cases, similarity is a major point of contention. For this reason, the JPO has issued several guidelines, some of which are introduced below.
For example, in the previous design registration 1659079, the size of the notches and thetreatment of the edges were changed.

How to handle edges
Stitching outside the original, going around the leather at the edge, or stitching inside instead of outside are both common techniques that are easy to come up with.
The patent office has stated that "the impact on the commonplace shape and other parts is relatively small."
(JPO Examination Criteria and Practice for Examination of Designs, 49p)
Therefore, even if the end part is changed to another common method, there is a high possibility that it will be considered similar.

Size of Notch
The difference in size has little effect as long as it is within the range of common sense in the field to which the design pertains.
(JPO Examination Guidelines and Examination Practice for Designs, p. 50)
and the size of the notch is more likely to be regarded as similar.


In addition to patents and design rights, there are other laws and rights that protect designs, such as the Unfair Competition Prevention Law and copyright.
Note that infringement of intellectual property rights may result in criminal penalties as well as civil penalties such as damages for loss. In
order to prevent damage caused by infringement of intellectual property rights, SYRINX discloses a list of its intellectual property rights to make it easier for third parties to investigate.