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On 1 April 2012, several amendments to the Japan Patent Act entered into force. Among other things, it has now become possible for non-exclusive licenses to have an effect on assignees without being registered with the Japan Patent Office (JPO). In the area of lawsuits and other trials, several measures have been introduced to allow for a more efficient settlement of disputes. Under the previous law, a rightful owner could only invalidate the patent in case of a misappropriation. Under the new law, the rightful owner may now request a transfer of the right. The fee system has also been reviewed and the possibilities to obtain a fee reduction or exemption have been expanded. Further amendments concern the provisions for the novelty grace period and the time limit for submitting a Japanese translation.
More information can be found on the English website of the Japan Patent Agents Association (JPAA) and in Part 2 "Government Efforts in Intellectual Property Activities" of the JPO's annual report 2011.