Partners Interview

Mr. Kobayashi and Mr. Yugeta talked about
"the present and future of Kobayashi & Yugeta Law Office."

I heard from Mr. Yukio Kobayashi and Mr. Hiroshi Yugeta, the backbone of Kobayashi & Yugeta Law Office about "the present and future of Kobayashi & Yugeta Law Office."

―Why did you choose intellectual property among so many different specialties?

Kobayashi:After graduating from university, I worked as a patent attorney but tried to be an attorney-at-law. Even after becoming an attorney-at-law, my knowledge and experience as a patent attorney remains one of my main strengths. At law firms that I had worked at before starting my own private practice, I was involved not only in intellectual property cases but also many civil cases. I believe that my greatest strength is to be involved in civil cases such as inheritance and real estate, while having knowledge and experience of intellectual property matters.

Yugeta:The reason I wanted to become a lawyer was because I wanted to help people in trouble with organized crime groups (Boryokudan). After much searching, I discovered that the law firm where Mr. Kobayashi was working was just the place to gain that experience. Even now, the solution of violence through civil intervention (the so-called Minbo) is my field of expertise, and I am a member of the task force in the bar association. The reason why I became involved in intellectual property was due to the fact that Mr. Kobayashi, a highly knowledgeable and experienced lawyer with expertise in intellectual property, belonged to the same law firm. Until Kobayashi & Yugeta Law Office was established, I developed my skills at several, law firms, both large and small, building relationships with various companies, and gaining a variety of experiences.

― Why did two lawyers, with an age difference of 20 years decide to set up a law office together?

Kobayashi:At Tamiya Godo Law Office, where I first worked as a partner, there were a number of associates with whom I worked, including Mr. Yugeta. I worked with them on intellectual property, and of all the associates, I noticed that Mr. Yugeta produced the highest quality of work in the shortest time. One of our mottoes is "30% more". Our goal is to exceed the expectations of our clients by increasing the speed and quality of our work by more than 30%. That is exactly what he does. That is why I asked him to work for me repeatedly because I knew I could rely on him to get the work done. Compensation for work leads to work, and ultimately to his increased experience. After I started my own private practice, I continued asking him to work for me, whilst he was at another law firm. Finally, four years after becoming independent, I asked Mr. Yugeta to work with me as a partner, just at the time when he was thinking of studying abroad.

Yugeta:Mr. Kobayashi treats all people as equals irrespective of their situation or background. Whether a client is a president of a large company or an unnamed individual, I admired his agreeability and his equal treatment of everyone he worked with. I was very pleased for him to have respected my way of thinking, even though there is an age difference of twenty years between us, and to have been in contact with me in the same way as other senior lawyers. Mr. Kobayashi first taught me the knowledge of intellectual property, which is my current strength. At the time of the opening of the office, and even now, I still have the same desire to follow him, and the enthusiasm to work with him.

Kobayashi:Co-management of a law firm is very difficult, and troubles will inevitably arise. One day I learned the maxim that "If we take from one another, there will never be enough, but when we share with each other, there will be more than enough" and this is exactly how I see the relationship with my partners, and I continue to keep these valuable words of wisdom in my mind at all times.

Yugeta:It seems that Mr. Kobayashi and I inherited the gene of "Tamiya-ism", from the boss of the Tamiya Godo Law Office, which I belonged to at the start of my career. Mr. Kobayashi and I are quite different in character, but almost certainly share the same attitude and way of thinking regarding the policy of dealing with cases. It is also because of Tamiya-ism that no matter how difficult a consultation is, we never say that something is impossible. It is easy to say that, but when we meet with a client in difficulty, we always try to find the best solution to the problem.

―What are the trends in recent intellectual property disputes?

Yugeta:There were periods when courts often revoked patents. Because patents are a weapon for fighting, if they are invalid, the lawyer's work is then terminated. On the corporate side, the costs of a trial as well as all the costs that have been incurred up to that time will be wasted. Recently, however, the number of invalid decisions has also decreased as the criteria for invalidating patents has become more stringent. I feel that patent infringement lawsuits have been on the increase as courts have come to view patents in a relatively positive light.

Kobayashi:The number of patent and trademark-related work at our office has also been increasing. In the case of trademarks, the criteria for judgments is difficult and the fact-finding and judgments are left to the judges, so I feel that there are many cases which fail to develop into fully-fledged lawsuits and instead end in out of court settlements.
I have been involved in many intellectual property cases, both past and present and I know all the faces and names of the intellectual property judges. We also understand the characters of each judge in litigation procedures.

Yugeta:In the case of intellectual property, there are unique keywords and interpretations such as claim interpretation, etc., so that the office with a number of lawyers with a deep knowledge of intellectual property, as we have, will result in lower costs as a result.

― What kinds of consultations do clients have?

Yugeta:This includes not only intellectual property-related consultations, but also employment-related consultations, like dealing with employees with symptoms such as pandemic depression, which has been identified as a recent trend in the media.

Kobayashi:Mr. Yugeta and I serve as corporate lawyers jointly for many companies and I alone work for 30 client companies. We receive consultations not only on intellectual property but also on labor issues, as well as on personal issues for executives and employees. Considering the current situation of the company, I feel that one lawyer per company is necessary. In addition to intellectual property issues, which are our main area of specialization, I would like you to feel free to consult with us about any problems you may encounter in your daily activities, from the collection of other receivables and employment issues to the resolution of complaints, regardless of the size of your business.

―What are your thoughts on the future vision of Kobayashi & Yugeta Law Office?

Yugeta:The size of a law firm is an indicator of the work it is being asked to perform. The goal is to first become a large office that is trusted by both clients and courts, and then to foster young, selected lawyers who understand our way of thinking and who can respond to clients and courts efficiently. By doing so, I hope that Mr. Kobayashi will view the overall office and lawyers as more than just a law practice and establish the Kobayashi & Yugeta brand and "Kobayashi-ism."

Kobayashi:Recently, there are more and more attorneys-at-law and patent attorneys still actively working over the age of 70. I still have another 10 years to go before I reach that age. It is never too late to start something. By not being content with the current situation, I would like to continue working for our expanding firm, whilst maintaining my motivation and confidence to still accomplish work at the highest level.