Patent Japan

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

From Archives - First Grand Panel Case of IP High Court, “Ichitaro Case” (1)

On September 30, 2005, the Intellectual Property High Court issued the first decision on the Grand Panel.

The IP High Court, which is one branch of the Tokyo High Court, was established on April 1, 2004, with 18 judges in four divisions. One of the new features at the IP High Court is that the Grand Panel composed of five judges across the divisions is prepared, for which more rule-setting role is expected.

In this Ichitaro case, Matsushita Electric is a holder of patent entitled “information processing device and information processing method". The patent has three claims: claims 1 and 2 are addressed to “an information process device”, and claim 3 relates to “an information process method”. Justsystem is engaged in manufacturing and selling Japanese word processing software “Ichitaro.” Purchasers of those products use the software by installing it on their own personal computers.

Matsushita brought the infringement lawsuit to the Tokyo District Court alleging that Justsystem's conduct constituted indirect infringement provided in Section 101 (ii) and (iv) of the Patent Law, and sought injunctive relief and destruction of Justsystem’s products.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that Justsystem’s software infringed Matsushita’s patent. This decision drew huge public attention, because “Ichitaro” is the most widely used word processing software in Japanese market after Microsoft’s “Word”.
However, the IP High Court, by admitting a newly submitted prior art, found that Matsushita’s patent should be invalidated, reversed the decision and ruled that Justsystem is not liable for infringement.

The issues before the Court are as follows:
(1) whether a personal computer on which Justsystem’s products are installed, as a product itself or by use thereof, falls in the scope of the patent's claims;
(2) whether Justsystem indirectly infringed Matsushita's patent pursuant to Section 101, (ii) and (iv) of the Patent Law;
(3) whether the patent is to be invalidated and thus Matsushita's exercise of the patent right should not be allowed; and
(4) whether additional allegation/evidence submitted by Justsystem before the Court should be dismissed as unduly late offensive/defensive action.

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