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Japan econ security bill to include penalties for patent info leaks, confidentiality breaches

The National Diet building (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- In the patent non-disclosure system under the economic security bill that the Japanese government is poised to submit to the current ordinary session of the Diet, the government is set to incorporate penal provisions for patent applicants who store information inappropriately, multiple government sources told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The purpose is to prevent the leak of sensitive information and implement a high-functioning system. The government is also set to adopt penal provisions for researchers who take part in joint public-private technology development and violate confidentiality requirements.

    Patent non-disclosure has been adopted in many advanced countries, but Japan lags behind. According to the bill that is set to be submitted to the Diet, the Japan Patent Office and the prime minister will assess the discovery for which a patent has been applied, and if it includes sensitive information that poses security risks, the discovery will be designated as "subject to protection." The patent applicant will then be required to meet appropriate information storage criteria and be banned from applying for patents for it overseas.

    The bill is set to include a mechanism by which confidentiality requirements will be imposed on cutting-edge research and development into which the government has pumped funds. Using the National Public Service Act as a reference, the penalties for private-sector researchers will be decided. Penalties will be also deliberated for cases in which key infrastructure operators such as energy, and information and communications, are implementing facilities that are believed to be problematic security-wise but are not heeding orders from the government to make changes to their plans.

    An expert government panel on Jan. 19 drew up a recommendation outline on the patent non-disclosure system and other aspects of the bill, saying "there should be penal provisions for violations," and "the same level of legal obligation to keep secrets as public servants should be required of private researchers." The government had thus far been cautious about setting penalties out of a concern for excessive regulations on the private sector, but a source tied to the prime minister's office explicitly said, "We will take the recommendation outline into consideration. We will refer to cases in other democracies."

    The bill is positioned at the core of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's economic security policy on which he places an emphasis, and which has four pillars: supply network, key infrastructure, technology base (public-private technology cooperation), and patent non-disclosure. It will be submitted to the Diet as early as late February.

    (Japanese original by Shun Kawaguchi, Political News Department)

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