News about intellectual property litigation comes at us frequently. Of these, the significant cases can dramatically alter the course of an enterprise, so firms may want to verify the facts about a reported litigation. For example, has an infringement trial actually begun, and if so, what patents are being scrutinized in the case?

Our firm received an inquiry to that effect recently, so we want to share some of what we know about the procedures in Japan.

Option 1: Can I Verify Litigation at a Court?

There are ways to investigate at the courts.

The Tokyo and Osaka District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction as courts of first instance for IP litigation. However, these courts do not publish searchable databases for pending cases. Therefore, it is not possible (as it is with the Japan Patent Office [JPO] databases) to look up a case's progress. The courts only publish the daily dockets.

On the other hand, if one knows the litigants' names and calls the court, the clerk there may be able to give the case number. Using the case number, one can look up that case and view its records.

However, if the litigants' names are not known (and sometimes media sources do not give the real names of the parties involved), then the only other way to get the information through the court is to estimate when the court will be holding the first oral proceedings, visit the court and view the day's docket, and then further determine which case may be the sought-after one. Doing this at Tokyo or Osaka (or both, if one is not sure where the case is being reviewed) is hard, so our firm generally outsources this kind of docket monitoring.

Option 2: Can I Verify Litigation through the Japan Patent Office?

Yes. The second route to finding details about a patent litigation is by searching in the announcement register for invalidation trials. Often, when a patent lawsuit is filed, the defendant will counterattack with a patent invalidation trial. Thus, by searching the announcement of invalidation trials, it may be possible to specify the patent that is at issue. Also, invalidation trials will often mention the particular patent infringement lawsuit taking place, and thus one can find the trial number and other data on the patent lawsuit.

It is possible to access the invalidation trial announcement register from the JPO's website. The register is updated from time to time and can therefore be regularly watched. Our firm also offers this service.

Our usual fees for the services we can offer are as follows.

Service Service Fee
Court Inquiry US$100 per time
Court Watching Service US$100 per month
JPO Watching Service US$300 per time (e.g. once per week)
Docket Searches at the Courthouse(s) US$150 per hour

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.