Five minutes with… Kiyoko Tamura, Japan Patent Office
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Five minutes with… Kiyoko Tamura, Japan Patent Office

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Each week Managing IP speaks to a different IP practitioner about their life and career

Welcome to the latest instalment of Managing IP’s ‘Five minutes with’ series, where we learn more about IP practitioners on a personal as well as a professional level. This time we have Kiyoko Tamura, executive chief administrative judge of the JPO.

Someone asks you at a party what you do for a living. What do you say?

As the executive chief administrative judge of the JPO, I give consultation and advice on trials, appeals, and court cases involving patents in all technical fields as well as designs and trademarks. In addition, as a representative of the trial and appeal practitioners at the JPO, I attend international conferences to introduce Japanese trial and appeal practices to other countries and to compare our systems with theirs, thereby deepening our friendship with other countries.

Talk us through a typical working day.

From 10am to 4pm I normally have several appointments and meetings about cases or will be conducting consultation and advisory sessions. I use the hours from 8am to 10am and after 4pm to read documents relating to cases and to prepare my lectures.

What are you working on at the moment?

The JPO regularly holds review meetings to maintain and improve the quality of our trial and appeal decisions. Today, I am carefully examining the decisions due to be reviewed in upcoming meetings.

Does one big piece of work usually take priority or are you juggling multiple things?

I am usually juggling. As there are always multiple cases running simultaneously, I get an overview of all the cases at an earlier stage, then take the time to research and study the issues in each case. I sometimes get good ideas when I am away from work, so I keep unconsciously thinking about the issues in my daily life.

What is the most exciting aspect of your role and what is the most stressful?

The most exciting aspect is when a JPO decision is upheld by the Intellectual Property High Court, and I explain the reasons for winning (the good points of the decision) at subsequent meetings.

The most stressful aspect comes just before a court decision on a case that we had no way of predicting whether we would win or not.

Tell us the key characteristics that make a successful IP lawyer/practitioner.

In the field of patents, it is essential to have a correct understanding of technology and the ability to derive determinations that are convincing to a person skilled in the art. Logical thinking and writing skills are also important in order to draft persuasive decisions.

In trademarks, it is important to have a correct understanding of judicial precedents and the ability to draft persuasive arguments when applying precedents to a case.

What is the most common misconception about IP?

Although IP-related news coverage tends to focus heavily on the disputes side, it would be good if more light is shed on the fact that proper IP protection is essential for technological advancement and industrial development.

What or who inspires you?

All the women at the JPO who are more senior than me have inspired me. Whenever I am facing difficulties, I have referred to how my predecessors overcame them and examined my approach.

If you weren’t in IP, what would you be doing?

I could have been a science teacher as I had the opportunity to study under a great science teacher and I have grown to love science.

Any advice you would give your younger self?

The world of IP is wide, deep, and exciting. You made an excellent choice for your career, so please have confidence in yourself to learn and challenge many things.

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