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Greetings for the New Year 2021


Happy New Year.
Though we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m thankful that we have been able to usher in the New Year with renewed mindsets.
I would like to start off 2021 by wishing you all a wonderful New Year.

Looking back on 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic affected everything including our lifestyles, working styles, the global economy, international relations and even people's values. While I was certainly taken aback by the fact that the entire world had drastically changed in a short period of time, I kept searching for an exit leading to the "new normal," an era of a new way of life.

After the first COVID-19 case was reported in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019, the novel virus rapidly spread around the world. Travel and logistics were restricted in many countries, plunging the global economy into recession at an unprecedented speed. As I'm writing this message on November 30, over 62.6 million total cases have been reported worldwide and the death toll has reached 1.45 million. Especially in Europe, tens of thousands of new cases have been reported daily, and the UK imposed a second lockdown for four weeks from the beginning of November. Though the number of new cases had been gradually decreasing since August in Japan, cases began to rise again around October across the country, including Tokyo, Hokkaido and Osaka, bringing the total cases above 140,000, with daily cases sometimes exceeding 2,000. This has prompted fears about a possible third wave. Meanwhile, in November, the media reported that U.S. companies Pfizer and Moderna had developed vaccines that are 95% effective. The Japanese government has agreed to receive a supply of vaccines for 60 million people by the end of June. I hope that the vaccines will be distributed widely with senior citizens and medical professionals first in line, ending the pandemic as soon as possible.

The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has significantly delayed Japan's economic recovery and the domestic economy is expected to shrink 5.2% in FY2020. While Japan's economy is projected to take an upward turn and grow 3.4% in FY2021, it is likely to be in 2022 or later that it will reach the pre-COVID-19 level. While the government has taken such economic measures as the loosening of travel and quarantine restrictions and the Go to Travel Campaign in an effort to drive the economic recovery in the new normal, business revenues and consumer spending have been continuously declining due to the fall resurgence of COVID-19. Under these circumstances, Japan's 99th prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, took office in September last year. I hope that he will demonstrate leadership in balancing the economy and safety while continuing economic policies such as Abenomics from his predecessor. Meanwhile in the U.S., the Democratic candidate Joe Biden is projected to win the much-talked-about presidential election and take office as the 46th president on January 20. With Mr. Biden planning to bring the U.S. back into the free trade framework and the Paris Agreement, cancel the U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization and resume talks with China—whose relationship with the U.S. has deteriorated into a trade war—the presidential transition is likely to significantly impact Japanese industries. Elsewhere, the Japan–U.K. Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) were signed in October and November respectively. Once the RCEP takes effect, it will create a mega trade zone that will account for 30% of the global population, GDP and trade volume. In addition to addressing the elimination and reduction of tariffs on industrial, agricultural and marine products, both the agreements include “the IP category” under the provision of new business rules that govern trade, investment, etc., highlighting IP's vital role in global businesses.

Despite the global economic stagnation, ICT technologies such as IoT, big data, artificial intelligence and 5G are developing continuously, accelerating digital transformation. Familiar examples of this trend include a sharp growth of telecommuting/remote work, online conferences and digital documents (without hanko seal requirements). The era of new normal has brought changes in people's lifestyles and mindsets, creating opportunities to develop new products and services. As the business environment becomes ever more challenging, IP will play an important role in ensuring continuous innovation. I believe that we should accurately capture changing trends and strive to contribute to new businesses in the post-COVID-19 era as IP professionals.

Regrettably, we had to cancel the 19th JIPA IP Symposium scheduled for February last year, while JIPA expert committees and subcommittees have been forced to scale back member meetings or move these discussion sessions online. Furthermore, some of our training courses have been canceled—though we are gradually shifting to live streaming and video streaming—the number of students enrolled in the full-year courses was down about 40% from usual years. We fully understand the inconvenience this has caused the members, and will continue to plan measures to implement JIPA activities and provide training while staying alert for resurgences of COVID-19. In the meantime, we are pleased to inform you that we are currently preparing to hold the 20th JIPA IP Symposium in March.

In 2021, we will continuously uphold our two organizational values—"studying IP systems and government policies and providing the government with proposals and viewpoints" and "providing training to drive talent development and engaging in public relations activities"—as the world's leading IP institution in order to contribute to the development of the next generation of IP leaders. I ask all members of JIPA for your continued support and cooperation.

I would like to conclude by wishing all of us a safe, productive and meaningful year.

January 2021
Chairperson of JIPA
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