Commonly known and widely accepted is that Japan is one of the most innovative nations in the world. In 2019 Japanese businesses produced roughly 245,372 patent applications and were outperformed only by China and the United States.
Since 2016 and up until 2020, SHIGA INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE (88,510 patent applications), SAKAI INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE (58,887 patent applications), and ITOH INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE (37,984 patent applications) were the three most prominent IP law firms in the country. Japanese leaders handled roughly 22% of the total volume in the same time window.
Regarding the prosecution work distribution among the firms, the upper 15 representatives accounted for roughly 56% of all the applications first published between 2016 and 2020. This indicates a relatively high concentration in the Japanese patent market.
While being the leading country in terms of the number of patent applications, Japan remains out of reach for some international applicants. Indeed, the cumbersome local rules make it rather difficult for non-locals to get protection in the country. This resulted in the situation when the most significant local IP law firms get their volumes from domestic clients. For example, out of all applications received by SHIGA INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE or TAIYO, NAKAJIMA & KATO between 2016 and 2020, only 29% or 33% were foreign filings. As for SAKAI INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE and ITOH INTERNATIONAL PATENT OFFICE, the share is even lower – 4% and 10% of patent applications from internationals. Only SEIWA PATENT & LAW handled roughly 50% of foreign filings, which is the highest share among the top 10.
Thus, as a rule of thumb, in the case of Japanese representatives, the number of domestic patent applications can be a potential indicator of the patent firms’ prominence.
The share of PCT-based filings was diverse, ranging from 92% to almost 1%. In general, for the upper 10 IP law firms, the percentage of applications filed at PCT went around 50%. The few exceptions are TAIYO, NAKAJIMA & KATO – 38% and ONDA TECHNO INTL. PATENT ATTYS. – 34%. Given the agents’ focus on local applicants and the volume of prosecuted filings, we can assume that at least half of Japanese inventors were targeted towards the international market.
To sum up, the largest Japanese IP law firms tended to focus their business on the local clients who ensure the large scale of prosecution work. The top ten IP law firms unchangeably remained in their position (with small fluctuations) and took over the significant volume of the domestic filings since 2016. Instead, the less-scaled representatives rather emphasized international applicants.