Weekly Japanese Industry and Policy News (Mar.10-Mar. 16, 2023)

The EU-Japan Centre is pleased to start a new weekly service by publishing brief summary of the latest information from the Japanese governmental organizations & private companies/organizations. A couple of minutes reading to be informed about what is happening in Japan's policy, economy, EU-Japan relations, and innovation.

*Information is deemed correct at the time of release. 

Weekly Japanese Industry and Policy News (Mar. 10-Mar. 16, 2023)

Cabinet decided on Japanese government's participation in WTO MPIA (Multilateral Provisional Appellate Arbitration Arrangement)

On March 10, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced that the cabinet decided to participate in the Multi-Party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MPIA) for dispute resolution of the WTO. The WTO dispute settlement system is a two-tier system consisting of a subcommittee (panel) and an Appellate Body to determine the consistency of disputed measures with WTO rules. 

However, since December 2019, the system's Appellate Body has ceased functioning. In response to this situation, in April 2020, some WTO member countries proposed the Multi-party Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement (MLIT) as an interim response while the Appellate Body has stopped functioning. MPIA is a framework that provides for settlement by arbitration. As of March 2023, 52 countries and regions including the EU, Australia, Canada, China, Singapore, New Zealand, and Brazil are participating.

Currently, two disputes filed with the WTO by Japan have already been “empty appeals'', and no final settlement has been reached. In the future, further panel reports on the two disputes filed by Japan are scheduled to be issued. For these reasons, the Japanese government has decided to participate in the MPIA as a temporary measure until the dispute resolution function is restored.

METI website: https://www.meti.go.jp/english/press/2023/0310_001.html

A bill to partially revise the Unfair Competition Prevention Act was approved by the Cabinet

On March 10, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced that a bill to partially revise the Unfair Competition Prevention Act was approved by the Cabinet. It was mainly a revision of the intellectual property system, which was implemented with the aim of supporting new business development utilizing intellectual property by start-ups and SMEs. 
The main revision points are (1) Strengthening protection of brands and designs in light of the diversification of business activities accompanying digitization, (2) Improvement of intellectual property procedures in response to the COVID crisis and digitization, (3) Development of systems for international business development; three main pillars. Among these, the main contents of the (1) above mentioned are as follows.

(1) Expansion of registrable trademarks
According to the Trademark Law, trademarks that are similar to trademarks already registered by others cannot be registered. However, if the prior trademark owner agrees and there is no risk of confusion of origin, registration will be allowed.
In certain cases, it will be possible to register trademarks that include names without the consent of others so that those who carry out business activities under their own names can use their names as trademarks.

(2) Relaxation of requirements for design registration procedures
Relaxation of requirements for procedures to obtain remedies in cases where creators, etc. publish multiple designs before filing an application.

(3) Prevention of counterfeiting in the digital space
Regarding acts of imitation of product forms, the act of providing products imitating others' product forms in the digital space will also be subject to acts of unfair competition, and it will be possible to exercise the right to demand an injunction.

(4) Strengthening protection of trade secrets and restricted data
In services that share big data with other companies, even if the data is confidentially managed, it will be protected as limited provision data, and it will be possible to demand an injunction against infringement.

METI website (in Japanese): https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2022/03/20230310002/20230310002.html

Nippon Express releases a CO2 emissions calculation tool for international transportation

NIPPON EXPRESS HOLDINGS announced that it has started offering from March 6 “the NX-GREEN Calculator", a tool that can calculate CO2 emissions from international air, sea, truck and rail transport on its website. "NX-GREEN Calculator" supports each transport mode of air, ship (including barges for river transport), truck, and railroads used in international transport routes. By simply entering the origin/arrival point, quantity, weight, and transportation mode, the CO2 emissions from the point of departure to the point of arrival can be calculated and visualized.

The main features are that almost all cities, ports, airports and railway freight stations in the world can be specified as departure and arrival points, and CO2 emissions of multiple transportation modes can be compared. It is also possible to calculate CO2 emissions in a more detailed transportation simulation that specifies the transportation mode between transit points. It supports three languages, Japanese, English and Chinese, so that it can be used globally.
The NIPPON EXPRESS Holdings Group has developed and provided tools for visualizing CO2 emissions in domestic transportation, "One-Stop Navi" and "Ecotrans Navi."

NIPPON EXPRESS website: https://www.nipponexpress-holdings.com/en/press/2023/08-Mar-23-1.html

Sumitomo Corporation starts collaboration with Israeli company on commercial production of green hydrogen

Sumitomo Corporation announced on March 9 that it will start collaborating with Israeli startup H2Pro on commercial production of green hydrogen. H2Pro was founded in 2019, as a start-up company from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. It has succeeded in producing 10kg/day of green hydrogen in 2022.

In addition, the company is currently conducting verification tests of green hydrogen production of 200 kg/day in collaboration with domestic petrochemical companies and renewable energy companies until the end of 2023. The company is aiming for commercial production of about 10 tons/day in the region. Sumitomo Corporation supports this demonstration experiment and the introduction of H2Pro's green hydrogen production equipment inside and outside the company group, and plans to start producing several hundred tons of green hydrogen per day in the latter half of the 2020s.

Currently, most commercially produced hydrogen is produced using low-cost fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, and the production process emits CO2. Electrolysis of water is a method that does not emit CO2 during hydrogen production, but the problem is the high production and operating costs. H2Pro has a new hydrogen production technology "E-TAC" that utilizes electrolysis of water. The technology developed by the company uses electrodes to generate oxygen and hydrogen separately, eliminating the need for isolation membranes and greatly improving electrolysis efficiency.

Sumitomo corporation website: https://www.sumitomocorp.com/en/jp/news/topics/2023/group/20230309

METI announced interim report on Hydrogen Security Strategy

On March 13, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced an interim report on the hydrogen security strategy based on discussions at the study group on the hydrogen security strategy. In anticipation of the realization of a hydrogen-based society, it has been discussed since August 2022 with the aim of organizing the current status and challenges of hydrogen safety regulations at each stage of the hydrogen supply chain, and building an environment that encourages the safe use of hydrogen. 

As a course of action for building a rational safety regulation system in cooperation with the public and private sectors ahead of the rest of the world, it aims to realize a hydrogen society and provide society with a safe and secure usage environment using Japan's world-leading hydrogen technology. To that end, the following three policies of action and nine specific measures were presented. At the same time, as part of the interim report, a technical map and progress schedule for hydrogen security were also released.

Action policy 1: Efforts based on scientific data and evidence through technological development
Means 1: Strategic acquisition of scientific data and sharing of data related to shared areas
Means 2: Realization of a smooth experiment/demonstration environment

Action policy 2: Rationalization and optimization of rules for the gradual implementation of a hydrogen society
Means 3: Concept of areas to be prioritized in the supply chain
Means 4: Clarification of the future path
Means 5: Developing and cultivating third-party certification bodies and inspection bodies
Means 6: Collaboration with local governments

Action policy 3: Development of hydrogen utilization environment
Means 7: Risk communication
Means 8: Human resource development
Means 9: Understanding trends in each country, efforts to harmonize regulations and formulate international standards

METI website: https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2022/03/20230313001/20230313001.html

UK emerging quantum computer to be offered to Japanese companies at a low price from the second half of the year

Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC), a start-up company from the Oxford University  announced on March 14 that it will make quantum computers available in the cloud based in Japan. It will be installed in a facility in Tokyo of Equinix, a major US data center company. This will be the company's first overseas base outside of the UK, and will serve as a foothold for developing the global market.

OQC is developing a quantum computer that uses cryogenically cooled superconducting circuits. In Japan, the actual machine with 32 qubits, which is the basic unit of calculation and serves as a measure of performance, is installed. OQC is also linked with Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud and can be connected from a remote location. It is characterized by the fact that it is easy to use for a wide range of companies.

RIKEN plans to release the first domestically produced quantum computer to companies and universities at the end of March. Compared to RIKEN, which is expanding its use in stages, OQC is expected to be available to a wide range of companies from the start of the service. OQC intends to provide low-cost services to Japan and capture diverse demand. Quantum computers differ from conventional computers in terms of calculation principles, etc., and new know-how is required when using them. In the past, there were few actual machines in operation in Japan, and the opportunity to use it was limited to some large companies, but the entry of OQC may expand the base of use.

OQC press release on the PR TIMES (in Japanese): https://prtimes.jp/main/html/rd/p/000000001.000118311.html

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