An International Guide to
Patent Case Management for Judges

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7.1.4 History of specialized intellectual property courts

Japanese courts have worked for many years to establish a specialized and expert system to handle cases related to IP rights. The IP High Court and IP divisions of the district courts have developed through a series of steps, the most significant of which are set out below.14 Intellectual property divisions of the Tokyo High Court

Prior to the establishment of the IP High Court, IP-related cases were dealt with by specialized divisions of the Tokyo High Court. A 1948 amendment of the Patent Act vested the Tokyo High Court with exclusive jurisdiction in relation to appeals against decisions of the JPO. This led to the creation of the Fifth Special Division in November 1950, which handled all IP-related cases in the Tokyo High Court alongside general civil appeal cases.

In March 1958, a division that specialized in IP and handled only IP-related cases was established as one of the civil divisions of the Tokyo High Court to replace the Fifth Special Division. Over time, the number of specialized divisions increased to four.

A Grand Panel system was introduced by the Act for Partial Revision of the Code of Civil Procedure, etc., which came into effect on April 1, 2004.15 The Grand Panel consists of five judges who hear actions relating to patents (so-called technology-related actions).16 At the same time, the Sixth Special Division was created within the Tokyo High Court to handle Grand Panel cases. Intellectual property divisions of other courts

In 1961, a special division that handled IP-related cases and general civil cases was established within the Tokyo District Court. In 1964, a similar division was established in the Osaka District Court. Currently, the Tokyo District Court has four divisions that specialize in IP-related cases, and the Osaka District Court has two such divisions. The Osaka High Court also has a division that handles IP-related cases as well as general civil cases.17 Act for Establishment of the Intellectual Property High Court of 2004

The slowed economy of Japan increased awareness of the need to promote the creation, protection and use of IP in order to revitalize the economy. In June 2001, the Justice System Reform Council released an opinion paper that recommended the reform of various court processes, including those related to cases that required expertise for the purpose of “enhancing comprehensive measures.”18

The Intellectual Property Policy Outline, published in July 2002, included a suggestion for the creation of an exclusive jurisdiction of the Tokyo District Court and the Osaka District Court, so that specialized IP divisions in those courts could function as an independent “patent court.”19 These recommendations led to discussions of the possibility of creating an IP High Court to enhance the resolution of litigated disputes relating to IP rights.

In June 2004, the Act for Establishment of the Intellectual Property High Court was enacted.20 The purpose of the Act was to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of court proceedings for IP-related cases and to foster a specialized judicial system. The IP High Court was established on April 1, 2005, as a special branch of the Tokyo High Court. At this time, the four specialized divisions for IP-related cases and the Sixth Special Division of the Tokyo High Court were converted into four divisions and a Special Division of the IP High Court.

As of July 2021, the Grand Panel of the IP High Court has delivered 14 judgments.