Comparison of where Japanese patent attorneys mainly work

Comparison of where Japanese patent attorneys mainly work


Hello, this is Mocco. The fun weekend is here, and I'm going to challenge myself to write another article in English today.

I worked in a patent firm for about 10 years and then in corporate IP for about 5 years, so I will write an article about the differences between the two ways of working as a patent attorney.

As a patent attorney in Japan, there are other options such as working at a university. But this time, I will only write an article about my experience comparing patent firms and corporate IP.

Job Description

This is one of the biggest differences between Corporate IP and patent firms. 

Although it depends on the industry, company policy, etc., the majority of companies ask patent firms to help them obtain patents and other rights. So, while most patent attorneys in patent firms concentrate on prosecution work, patent attorneys in corporate IP often do a variety of other work.

Patent attorneys in corporate intellectual property are responsible for discovering inventions, searching for patents of other companies, and coming up with plans to deal with patents of concern. Invention compensation related matters are also very difficult, as well as IP management of affiliated companies.

Therefore, I believe that a patent attorney working in a patent office will be someone for whom the words "craftsman" and "specialist" are appropriate. On the other hand, a patent attorney working in corporate intellectual property would be better described as a jack-of-all-trades or a ball picker.

In addition, the scope of work for both corporate IP and patent firms varies depending on the size of the organization, the industry, the position of the employee, and the client.

Working Environment

There is a difference between heaven and earth in this regard as well.

In a nutshell, corporate IP is often constrained by rules and regulations because it works in a company. On the other hand, if you work in a patent office, you will basically have more freedom than a corporate IP.

For example, when I was working for a company, I had to use a lot of systems to do really trivial things such as managing work hours, settling transportation expenses, and purchasing supplies, and it was a struggle. 

The assumption is that patent attorneys who work for companies are just another member of the staff, with little special status or respect. On the other hand, patent attorneys working in patent firms are the breadwinners, and therefore, in many cases, they are provided with a more comfortable environment in which they can concentrate on their work.

In terms of comparison with other countries, the treatment of patent attorneys in patent offices is probably no different from other countries. On the other hand, the fact that the status of patent attorneys working in companies is not very high may be unique to Japan.

As a matter of fact, not a small number of patent attorneys working for companies cancel their registration in the process. In most cases, this is because the company does not pay the fees to keep the patent attorney.

Job change

In the past in Japan, I think the most common route was for corporate engineers to move to a patent office and learn the business of prosecuting patent applications.

Even now, there are a good number of people who change their jobs from companies to patent firms. On the other hand, in recent years, I have the impression that the number of people changing jobs from patent firms to corporate IP is increasing.

I would like to express my impressions as one of those who have changed jobs from a patent office to corporate IP. As I mentioned above, patent attorneys working for Japanese companies often find themselves in many troublesome positions. Nevertheless, working for a corporation has been a very good experience for me. The best part is that I learned to see the bigger picture.

In this regard, my former boss used to say to me.

"What is the purpose of intellectual property?"

I think we should not forget this. We should not file applications to obtain rights, but use IP to protect corporate business.

I could not find this kind of difference in perspective when I was working only in a patent office. In addition, now that I have a better understanding of how difficult it is to work in corporate IP, I think I am more gentle when dealing with clients at patent firms.


In Japan, people who work in IP-related fields are still seen as a rarity. But in my opinion, it's a good industry to work in for our next generation, who will work while taking care of their families.

That's why I'm working on a project to disseminate information about careers in the IP industry and other topics on "IP Women's Association Online(知財女子会オンライン)" and other sites.

I hope you will keep a warm eye on it.

Thank you for reading to the end.

Here are some other articles in English that I have distributed.