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System to make patents closed to public starts; The government strives to protect inventions that are sensitive to national security


Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo

The government on Wednesday began implementing a patent non-disclosure system under which the government can make patent applications for inventions sensitive to national security closed to the public under the Economic Security Promotion Act.

All four pillars of the law will be implemented after the government also launched a system on May 17 that makes prior research mandatory for the introduction of important social infrastructure facilities, such as electricity and gas.

In principle, patents are made public 1½ years after application. However, if a patent is deemed to pose a significant risk of undermining national security, it will be subject to protection review. If – through the examination process – a patent is designated for protection, the patent cannot be obtained and the government will compensate the damage.

The government has identified 25 specific technological areas, including “disguise and camouflage technology” for aircraft to achieve stealth performance and “technology related to scramjet engines,” as subjects of investigation for protection.

Currently, 211 companies in 14 sectors have been designated as important infrastructure. Changes to the law currently being debated in the House of Councilors include the addition of ‘transport through ports’, which would bring the total to 15 industries if the revision is approved.

Computer systems and other equipment to be installed will also be examined in advance to prevent cyber attacks.

The law also stipulates the designation of “specified critical goods” important to Japan’s economy and society, such as semiconductors, and support for “specified critical technologies” that the government wants to promote. These systems were both implemented in August 2022.

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