Graduate School of Law/Faculty of Law, Kobe University


Meet Our Professors


Message for the Graduate School of Law Website

Ryo Shimanami
Professor, Kobe University Graduate School of Law

Welcome to the Kobe University Graduate School of Law website.

Please pause for a moment and take a look at the computer or tablet that you are using to view this site. You should find therein embodiments of a myriad of information that in itself is intangible—inventions (technology for efficient computation or communications), copyrighted works (downloaded software and music), and brands (Apple Inc.’s Apple logo), to name a few.

Intellectual property laws are legal systems that protect such intangible information as being “property.” In modern society, these intellectual property laws have a very far-reaching impact. The prices of pharmaceutical products and published books, the scope of free expression permitted on the Internet, and the possibility of implementing new business models—these are all related to the state of intellectual property laws.

Thus far, I have primarily researched and written papers on legislative issues related to Japanese intellectual property laws—for example, the reconciliation of interests between labor and management in cases where productions of intellectual property are carried out in the firms, or the impact that transfer of intellectual property rights has on licensing agreements—referring at times to the foreign laws, and at other times, applying economics.

In addition to such practical issues, my recent interests also include basic research, such as the future of the patent system and the reason for its existence. I edited The Future of the Patent System (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2012), and I am also scheduled to supervise the Japanese translation of Robert P. Merges, Justifying Intellectual Property (Harvard University Press, 2011) for publication in Japan.

Kobe University accepts many international students. In fact, in the past dozen years or so that I have taught here, I have had more than 20 international students from countries such as China, South Korea, Ukraine, and Brazil studying with me. Many of these graduates are now playing an active role as a bridge between their home country and Japan, whether by teaching at universities, engaging in the legal profession, or working as businesspersons.

The intellectual property law education at Kobe University is made of two orthodox parts: structured lectures by two full-time professors, and seminars in which students present the results of their research. The selection of the dissertation theme and writing policy are basically left to the student’s own initiative. This is because we believe that the greatest results in academic research can be expected when, with a foundation of basic knowledge and familiarity with protocol, students are allowed to freely pursue issues that are of interest to them.

When compared to other fields of law, intellectual property law is one of the fields with the most international systemic harmonization. At the same time, it is also a field in which international disputes occur with great frequency. This is not only because cross-border trading of intellectual property takes place (have you ever downloaded music or video data from a website based in a foreign country?) but also because the importance of intellectual property as a source of corporate or even national wealth has increased dramatically in recent years. The whole concept of intellectual property legal systems is one of the important issues negotiated in international commercial treaties. On the other hand, from an international viewpoint of “justice,” there is now also growing awareness of the need to correct the inequality that impacts the lives of private citizens through the monopolization of intellectual properties by large corporations of a developed country (e.g. for an AIDS drug).

Why not take on the challenge of resolving such international issues at our campus, located amidst the greenery of the foothills of Mt. Rokko? Come join us on this stimulating journey to explore ideal intellectual property legal systems. I hope that your first step towards cultivation of your academic knowledge and overseas experience, in other words, the fostering of your own “intellectual property,” is taken now, here at this website.