Japan takes patent fights out of courtrooms

Quicker resolution sought for ‘standard-essential’ disputes

Nikkei staff writers

TOKYO — Japan will soon implement a process that will swiftly resolve disputes over patents that are crucial to adhering to certain technical standards, providing an alternative to expensive and lengthy court battles.

Companies holding “standard-essential” patents own rights to technology that users must adopt to comply with an industrial specification. Currently, corporations report if they own standard-essential patents, but rivals can sue them in court, claiming that the patents are not truly standard-essential. Qualcomm is a notable holder of the these patents, and Apple and Samsung Electronics have fought in Japanese courts over patents covering telecommunications technology, for instance.

Similar suits are reportedly on the upswing with the advance of the “internet of things.” Looking to provide relief for the court dockets, the Japan Patent Office will add standard-essential patents to the scope of patents it will review. The system, which will be put in place as soon as April, will hear testimony from the claimants and issue a ruling in roughly three months.

Although the patent office reviews will not be legally binding, they will offer a cheaper alternative to court cases, which last around eight months. If a patent is judged to be standard-essential within that format, the holder can anticipate licensing fees from companies using the intellectual property.

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