These are exciting times for a foreign IP law professor working in Japan. I was always impressed by the degree of interest that Japanese academics, government officials and also practitioners showed in the legal background and developments overseas. I am not aware of any country that provides government officials and judges with the framework and the funding to live and study abroad in the same way that Japan does. And while shorter international research stays for professors are somewhat common in Europe or in the US, long-term sabbaticals stretching over one or two entire years are engrained into the Japanese academic system and provide junior and midlevel academics with the opportunity to experience life and work outside Japan. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as a consequence of these usually quite generously supported programs, legal experts in Japan are often also experts in the legal system of at least one foreign jurisdiction. The deep level of knowledge and understanding of foreign legal systems and legal developments in many areas of law has been the basis for comparative legal research and a major driver for the frequently-seen reception of international legal concepts into Japanese law.
It might or might not be accurate to say that the level of interest in foreign legal regimes is nowhere as high as it is in Japan. At the very least, it is obvious that Japanese legal experts tend to be more interested in what happens e.g. in France, Germany or in the US than the average legal expert from those countries would be in Japanese law and legal developments. This is partly due to the lack of a tradition of comparative legal studies and reception in these strongholds of common law and civil law. But at the same time, I believe that there is a significant number of legal scholars and experts in Europe and the US who try to follow major legal developments outside their own jurisdictions and who would love to know more about legal developments in the third largest economy on the globe. At least I have talked to a number of foreign colleagues who were curious and interested in how Japanese statutes, case law and legal theory would address and potentially resolve certain legal problems and issues. Each of these colleagues acknowledged that their lack of success in understanding Japanese legal approaches was usually caused by their lack of understanding the Japanese language – obviously a major obstacle. The Japanese government initiated, amongst others, the commendable initiative of providing reliable English translations of major Japanese statutes published at http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp. However, access to English translations of relevant statutes will only be a first step in tackling the issue of understanding how Japan deals with a specific and potentially complicated legal issue.
An interesting phenomena that one could note in recent years is that Japanese universities started to offer an increasing number of English-language law courses or programs. Pioneer universities to be mentioned here were especially Kyushu University and Nagoya University; other Japanese universities which have recently started to or are planning to offer legal education in English include Keio University, Hitotsubashi University and Kobe University. Starting from 2018, Waseda University will begin to offer two LLM courses: a LLM degree focusing on IP law that will not require, but offer law classes taught in English, and a LLM in Asian Economic Integration and Law (https://www.waseda.jp/folaw/glaw/en/), which will be taught entirely in English. My colleagues and I hope that these programs will bring more of the international diversity that many of Waseda’s other faculties and schools already enjoin to the school of law. In the long run, we also hope that these programs will produce a new and growing generation of international legal experts with an understanding of Japanese law and language.
One related project has been to become involved in the editorial leadership of an English-language journal on Japanese IP law. The journal “Patents & Licensing” was established by Prof. Teruo Doi as a paper-only bimonthly print publication in the early 1970ies. Professor Doi became a widely-known academic also outside Japan during his career as he was one of the first Japanese IP law academics to discuss and publish on Japanese IP law in English. He and the publishing company decided to entrust the publication to a next generation of academics. We established a board of editorial advisors consisting of leading and internationally-minded IP law professors from universities throughout Japan with significant experience in teaching Japanese IP law to international students. One of the first steps has been to increase the outreach and potential readership of the journal on Japanese IP Law by including it into HeinOnline, a leading law journal database with a broad range of subscribers around the world. I hope that this journal can be a good and reliable source to support international students in their legal studies of Japanese law and to increase the understanding of Japanese approaches and solutions in IP law around the world.
_ （Christoph Rademacher）