In Japan, the Japanese Patent Office and the courts are the government agencies charged with the handling of patent rights. The Japanese Patent Office examines patent applications seeking protection through intellectual property rights, and handles trials concerning invalidation with regard to intellectual property rights granted by the Patent Office. The courts handle litigations relating to intellectual property rights.
Litigation relating to intellectual property rights can be classified into infringement prosecution and suits for canceling trial decisions.
An infringement case is one where an enterprise holding a patent right seeks cessation of sales of an infringing product by a competitor based on patent right infringement. There are also cases where that patent holder seeks financial compensation for damages caused by that infringement. The point of dispute in patent infringement litigation is whether the manufacturing and/or the product sold by the defendant are covered by the technical scope of the patented invention. In the event that infringement has indeed occurred, the point of dispute shifts to what the appropriate compensation would be in that case.
In suits for canceling trial decisions, the party objecting to the judgment of the Patent Office litigates to have that decision of the Patent Office canceled based upon intellectual property rights granted through the Patent Office, such as those for patent rights, utility model rights, design rights and trademark rights. For example, the party objecting to a rejection of a patent application can appeal the decision to the Patent Office. In the event that the party still maintains an objection to a decision resulting from a judgment, the party can initiate litigation at a superior court for intellectual property rights to seek cancellation of that judgment.
In Japan, the courts are composed of the Supreme Court and the lower courts. The lower courts are composed of the superior, or high courts, and the district courts. In April of 2005, a Superior Court (the Intellectual Property High Court) dedicated to handling intellectual property was established. Their sole focus is the handling of cases relating to intellectual property.
In an infringement case, the Tokyo District Court or the Osaka District Court is the first to hear so-called “technical type” infringement cases relating to the patent rights, utility patent rights, circuit arrangement usage rights of semiconductor integrated circuits, and rights of the author of copyrighted programs. In addition to the Tokyo and Osaka District Courts, the District Courts throughout Japan are the first to hear so-called “non-technical” cases relating to design rights, and trademark rights. The Intellectual Property High Court is the second to hear the “technical type” infringement case after the first judgment at the lower courts, and exclusively handles suits for the cancellation of a trial decision.