Although Japan's trademark practitioners are still feeling the effects of the global economic downturn, a slight increase in the number of applications filed in 2010 is a sign of improving market conditions. Japan has strict rules limiting the work that can be done by non-native lawyers, although domestic and international firms employ foreign practitioners who can act in an advisory capacity. As foreign law firms cannot practise independently, international players with a presence in Japan must form a joint venture with domestic outfits. There are a large number of patent and trademark agencies handling prosecution matters. These agencies do not deal with legal issues, and although there are many good practices, no leaders have emerged as a result of our research – therefore, they do not figure in our rankings. Court decisions and other issues regarding three-dimensional trademarks have been major talking points among Japanese trademark practitioners in the past year.
Formerly at Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Wataru Sueyoshi set up the general practice law firm STW & Partners in 2007 along with a number of colleagues. He is “very strong in the IP field and has an excellent reputation as a sole practitioner”, and has written extensively on trademarks and other IP matters.