July 21, 2024

Japan to Use Property Rights to Profit from Farm Products Overseas

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan’s agriculture ministry will create a mechanism to earn more profits overseas from Japanese agricultural products, such as luxury fruits, by actively making use of intellectual property rights.

Up until now, Japan has focused the use of intellectual property rights in the agriculture area on preventing the smuggling of seeds and saplings of luxury fruits developed at home to foreign countries.

Under the new mechanism, the ministry’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization and others will establish an organization tasked with managing and protecting plant breeders’ rights, a form of intellectual property rights for newly developed plant varieties.

The envisaged organization will license such rights to trustworthy overseas partners and collect royalties from them.

If Japan manages to secure agricultural licensing agreements in the Southern Hemisphere, which experiences opposite seasons to Japan, the country can expand exports to such licensee countries as such products are shipped to markets at different times of the year, ministry officials said. Japan also thinks the new mechanism will help bolster the monitoring of possible intellectual property rights violations overseas through licensee countries.

The ministry also seeks to protect Japanese farmers from competition with rivals in licensee countries.

In a survey released in 2020 by the ministry, seeds or saplings of 36 kinds of agricultural products developed in Japan were found to have been smuggled out to China and South Korea, including strawberries and grapes. Those cases include the Shine Muscat grapes, whose saplings were smuggled into China around 2016. The total area of land devoted to Shine Muscat farming in China is now around 30 times larger than that in Japan.

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