Japan sets up IP high court and amends IP laws

Japan

The House of Councillors, Japan's upper chamber, has passed a law that provides for the creation of an IP high court. It is also considering amendments to the country's IP laws that will give courts the power to depart from normal court proceedings in certain circumstances. The new act and the amendments, if approved, will come into force on April 1 2005.

The IP High Court will have exclusive jurisdiction over the following:

  • appeal cases from the district courts relating to patents, utility models, designs, trademarks, circuit layout use, authors' rights, publishers' rights, neighbouring rights, rights of cultivators and infringement of trade secret;

  • actions against decisions of the Japan Patent Office relating to patents, utility models, designs and trademarks; and

  • any other appeal case that mainly focuses on IP rights and requires expert IP knowledge to render the judgment.

The IP High Court will be part of the Tokyo High Court. However, its chief judge, the judges' committee and the organization of the judicial administration will be independent from the Tokyo High Court.

The amendments to all IP laws (Patent Law, Utility Model Law, Design Law, Trademark Law, Copyright Law and Unfair Competition Prevention Law) will give courts the power to depart from normal court proceedings in certain circumstances. Courts will for instance be able to (i) prohibit parties to a trial from using information obtained through court procedures, such as briefs and evidence, for purposes other than court proceedings; and (ii) order that some court procedures (eg, witness examination) not be conducted in public as normally prescribed by the Constitution. This will prevent confidential information, such as trade secrets, from being disclosed to the public.

Norimasa Shimoda, Yuasa and Hara, Tokyo

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