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On December 21, 2018, the Tokyo District Court held that a patent is infringed under the Doctrine of Equivalents, even though a claim element that was found to be not literally infringed was added by an amendment made during prosecution of the patent (Tokyo District Court, Case No. 2017 (wa) 18184).
SAPIX (the plaintiff in this case, Nippon Entrance Exam Co., Ltd.) is in the business of managing SAPIX, which is a famous preparatory school.
Entrance Exam Doctor Co., Ltd. (the "Defendant") obtained test questions made by SAPIX, published handbooks and provided commentaries on them for the students of SAPIX.
The Plaintiff, SAPIX filed a lawsuit against the Defendant seeking an injunction against the use of expressions which include "SAPIX" or "SAPIX in Katakana" and damages under Article 709 of the Civil Code, but the IP High Court rejected SAPIX's claims.
The Plaintiff, Nintendo Co., Ltd. ("Nintendo"), filed a lawsuit against KK MariCAR ("Defendant") seeking an injunction against the use of the "MariCAR" marks and "Super Mario Cart" costumes with respect to the "rental of go-carts and cosplay costumes" and damages on the grounds that the costume configuration of Nintendo's famous characters qualified as an "Indication of goods" under Article 2(1)(i) of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act ("UCPA.") The Court accepted Nintendo's claims and granted partial relief to Nintendo (Case No. 2017 (WA) 6293, judgment issued on December 25, 2017.)
Starting from October 1, 2018, the Japan Patent Office ("JPO"), has introduced a fast track examination ("Fast Track Examination") on a trial basis, where applicants can receive the first examination results about two months earlier than regular examinations.
On December 27, 2018, the Tokyo District Court issued a judgment that acknowledged trademark infringement by R&M JaPan Co., Ltd ("R&M JaPan"), who sold lighting apparatuses similar to the 3D trademark of a lamp shade by Luis Poulsen A/S ("Luis Poulsen"), named "PH-5," and awarded Luis Poulsen damages of 4.4 million JPY (Tokyo District Court No. 2017 (wa) 22543).
Asserting Japanese Patent No. 4313531 (the "Patent"), Baxalta Incorporated and Baxalta GmbH (correctively "Plaintiffs") sought an injunction prohibiting Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, ("Chugai") from manufacturing, using, transferring, exporting, offering to transfer, and destruct Chugai's antibody drug Hemlibra(R) (emicizumab) ("the Products"). No damages were claimed in this lawsuit. The court ruled that the Products do not infringe the Patent, interpreting its functional claim narrowly. (The Tokyo District Court's judgement of March 28, 2018 (Case No. 2016 (wa) 11475))
In the first appeal case, the IP High Court held that a patent concerned did not satisfy the clarity requirement and thus invalid because a term used in the claims of the patent was ambiguous and thus unclear. The patentee removed the harmful description in the specification of the patent that could lead to ambiguity of the term concerned, and held that the patent satisfies the clarity requirement in the second appeal case.
The Grand Panel of the Intellectual Property High Court (the "IP High Court") decided that if an invention allegedly claimed to be a cited invention is a compound described in the form of general formula in the publication and the general formula has an enormous number of alternatives, it is impossible to extract a specific technical concept according to a specific alternative and find it as a cited invention unless there is a circumstance where the technical concept according to the specific alternative should be positively or preferentially selected. (Case No. 2016 (Gyo-Ke) 10182, 10184, judgement issued on April 13, 2018)
KK Shoes Selection (the "Plaintiff") filed a suit against KK Fukunaga (the "Defendant") seeking an injunction against sales, destruction of the goods and damages on the ground that the configuration of the Plaintiff's foldable umbrellas qualified as an indication of goods (the "Indication of Goods") and the importation and sales of such goods constituted unfair competition under Article 2(1)(i) of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act (the "UCPA"). The Tokyo District Court (the "Court") accepted the Plaintiff's claims and granted partial relief to the Plaintiff. (Case No. 2016 (wa) 10736, judgment issued on February 27, 2018)
The Intellectual Property High Court (the "IP High Court") reversed the decision of JPO Trial Board in favor of Red Bull on the invalidation trial regarding Red Bull marks and found the Red Bull marks to be highly famous not only for energy drinks but also for products for automobiles. (Case No. 2017 (Gyo-Ke) 10080, judgment issued on December 25, 2017)
The Japan Patent Office (the "JPO") recently amended its rule regarding the number of sub-classes that may be included in one International Class. Under the previous rule, an applicant was able to include only up to 7 sub-classes in one Class, and if the applicant exceeded this limit, the applicant was asked to show use or intent to use. However, under the new rule, an applicant is able to include up to 22 sub-classes in one Class. The new rule goes into effect on April 2, 2018.
In a judgment issued on March 24, 2017, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled on one of the requirements for finding patent infringement under the Doctrine of Equivalents, namely, that the patentee during prosecution did not intentionally exclude the equivalent product/method from the scope of the patent. The Supreme Court held that, even if an equivalent product/method could be easily conceived of by a person skilled in the art at the time of filing of the application but the applicant did cover the equivalent product/method in the claim, that does not necessary mean that the applicant intentionally excluded the equivalent method/product from the scope of the patent (Supreme Court Case No. 2016 (ju) 1242.)
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. ("Chugai") filed a patent infringement action in the Tokyo District Court against Iwaki Seiyaku Co., Ltd., Takata Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., and Pola Pharma Inc. (the "Defendants") for manufacturing and selling generic drugs. In the lawsuit, Chugai sought damages caused by reduction of price of Chugai's original drug caused by price listing of the Defendants' generic drug. On July 27, 2017, the Tokyo District Court issued a judgement in favor of Chugai and ordered the Defendants to jointly pay damages. (Tokyo District Court, Case No. 2015 (wa) 22491)
On November 24, 2016, the Intellectual Property High Court of Japan (the "IP High Court") held that a patent that involves operation of online shopping malls is invalid due to lack of inventive step (IP High Court Case No. 2016 (ne) 10027).
In a case in which plaintiffs sought injunction and damages against a defendant under Article 2(1)(iii) of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act (the "UCPA"), which protects a product shape against unauthorized imitation for three years from the first sale of the product, the IP High Court held that the plaintiffs' products displayed at a trade show became protectable before the plaintiffs actually started selling the product, but also that the three-year period commenced from the date of the display (IP High Court No. 2016 (ne) 10018, judgment issued on November 30, 2016).
On March 1, 2017, the Japan Patent Office (the "JPO") made a press release stating that it issued first decisions to register trademarks that merely consist of colors. This is the first time that the JPO decided to register color marks since the JPO started receiving trademark applications for color marks in April 2015.
The Intellectual Property High Court of Japan (the "IP High Court") recently issued multiple judgments regarding product-by-process ("PBP") claims, which all held that a PBP claim is not indefinite just because a production method is included in the claim. This could be viewed as a trend towards limiting the applicability of the Supreme Court's so-called PBP claim judgment in 2015, which has been criticized for being too strict on PBP claims.
On December 19, 2016, the Tokyo District Court issued a preliminary injunction against the Defendant's operation of a coffee shop, finding that the exterior of the Defendant's coffee shop is similar to the exterior of the Plaintiff's well-known coffee shops. (Tokyo District Court Case No. 2015 (yo) 22042).
On appeal from the Japan Patent Office (the "JPO") Trial Board's decision to refuse trademark registration, the Intellectual Property High Court (the "IP High Court") reversed the JPO Trial Board decision, holding that the Plaintiff Mark "ELLEAIR (in Katakana) / i:na / IINA (in Japanese)" is dissimilar to the Cited Mark "IINA (in Japanese) / e-na", despite the finding that "i:na" and "e-na" have the same pronunciation. (IP High Court Case No. 2015 (gyoke) 10171, judgment issued on January 28, 2016)
On September 28, 2016, the Intellectual Property High Court issued a judgment in a patent infringement action involving facial care machines. In the judgment, the Court found that the patented invention lacked either novelty or inventive step due to the way a prior art device was actually displayed by the patent owner himself at an event held prior to the priority date of the patent, and held the patent invalid (IP High Court Case No. 2015 (ne) 10017).
In a judgment issued on October 31, 2016, the Intellectual Property High Court rejected the Plaintiff's claim that the Defendant's use of a similar food package constitutes unfair competition. In doing so, the court held that the food industry is inventing and developing various kinds of new products every day, and that the fact that a company has created a novel packaging design/configuration of goods does not necessarily mean that the said design/configuration will become recognized as an identification of source (IP High Court Case No. 2016 (ne) 10058).
The Amended Personal Information Protection Act (the "New PIPA") was promulgated on September 9, 2015, and will fully come into force within two years from then, most likely on April 1, 2017. The New PIPA makes several important amendments to the regulation on personal information under the current Personal Information Protection Act, with respect to issues such as sensitive personal information, Big Data, traceability and cross-border transfer of personal information. If your company runs B-to-C business in Japan or receives personal information from a company in Japan, it is recommended that you keep your eyes on the New PIPA.
In a judgment issued on March 30, 2016, the Tokyo District Court held that a patent that was granted extension of term may be enforced, not only against a product that was the subject of the disposition on which the term extension was based, but also against other products that are equivalent or essentially identical to the product that was the subject of the disposition (Tokyo District Court Case No. 2015 (wa) 12414).
In a judgment issued on December 24, 2015, the IP High Court held that a seller of chipsets is liable for the purchaser's damages caused by the purchaser agreeing to pay money to a patent owner in negotiations between the purchaser and the patent owner, because the seller failed to meet its contractual obligations to cooperate sufficiently with the purchaser in settling the dispute (IP High Court Case No. 2015 (ne) 10069).
On May 17, 2016, the Japan Patent Office ("JPO") made an announcement on bad faith trademark filings, telling legitimate trademark owners not to give up filing of new applications just because there are already prior trademark applications filed by third parties in bad faith.
In a judgment issued on November 17, 2015, the Supreme Court of Japan adopted a new standard on when a patent term extension shall be granted for drugs. The Japan Patent Office (JPO) initially ruled that, since a drug that has a certain active ingredient was previously approved for marketing, delay in approval of another drug that has the same active ingredient cannot be asserted as a basis for patent term extension, even if other elements such as dosage and administration are different from the first drug. However, the Supreme Court overturned the JPO decision and opened a room for granting patent term extension in such cases. (Supreme Court Case No. 2014 (gyo-hi) 356.)
In October 2015, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) issued the first series of decisions to allow registration of new types of trademarks based on the amendment to the Trademark Act that took effect on April 1, 2015, which newly introduced trademarks consisting of sounds, colors, holograms, motions and positions.
The Japan Patent Office (JPO) announced that it will decrease the trademark registration fee and the renewal fee. The JPO also announced that the applicants will have more options for extending deadlines for responding to office actions, by allowing an applicant to file a request for extension even after the deadline has passed. These changes will take effect on April 1, 2016.