Japanese Intellectual Property Law in Translation: Representative Cases and Commentary

By Port, Kenneth L. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Japanese Intellectual Property Law in Translation: Representative Cases and Commentary


Port, Kenneth L., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


I. INTRODUCTION

Like much of Japanese law, Japanese intellectual property law is often criticized as being inaccessible. This inaccessibility has contributed to the misperception that Japanese case law regarding intellectual property does not exist. Even if it exists, the perception goes, it takes forever to track down and it is nearly irrelevant.

This Commentary, in a very modest way, is aimed at debunking the myth that Japanese case law regarding intellectual property is either non-existent or less meaningful than its U.S. counterpart. This Commentary consists of five translations of recent, significant intellectual property cases, as well as commentary regarding the relevance and meaning of each case.

In the end, the most important objective of this Commentary is to show in bright letters that Japanese case law on intellectual property does exist and that it has a very rational and rich intellectual grounding.

Although the inaccessibility of actual opinions has been hard to refute, in September of 2000 the Japanese Supreme Court added an intellectual property category to its web page, www.courts.go.jp. In one motion, this has drastically reduced, if not totally eliminated, the appearance of inaccessibility. Now, sometimes even on the same day as they are issued--as in the JACCS Case translated below, intellectual property cases are posted on this cite in very easy to read, large Japanese print.

II. MORAL RIGHTS CASE

Moral rights are given very broad protection in Japan. In the case that follows, a young man produced an adult video tape of a video game character developed by the giant game manufacturer Konami. To enhance the association, the defendant even appears to have changed his last name to be very similar to Konami's name.

A. Konami, K.K. v. Ichiro Komami(1, 2)

Formal Judgment

1. The defendant is hereby enjoined from manufacturing, selling, or distributing the Video Tape as defined herein;

2. The defendant is hereby ordered to destroy the master and all copies made of the Video Tape as defined herein;

3. The defendant shall pay the plaintiff the sum of 2,275,000 yen plus 5% interest per annum calculated from July 19, 1998, until this amount is paid in full;

4. The remainder of plaintiff's claims are hereby rejected;

5. Costs shall be divided into three parts. The plaintiff shall be responsible for 2/3 and the defendant shall be responsible for 1/3 of those costs.

6. The monetary awards of this opinion may be enforced provisionally.

Facts and Reasoning

I. Plaintiffs Demands

The plaintiff [Konami, K.K.] demands that the defendant, Mr. Ichiro Komami be enjoined from manufacturing, selling, or distributing his Video Tape as defined below. The plaintiff also demands that the master and all copies of that Video Tape be destroyed. The plaintiff further prays for damages in the amount of 10,840,000 yen plus 5% per annum calculated from July 19, 1998 until this amount is paid in full.

The plaintiff further demands that the defendant publish a letter of apology in the national editions of the Asahi Newspaper, the Yomiuri Newspaper, the Mainichi Newspaper, and the Nippon Keizai Newspaper.

II. Nature of Dispute

In this dispute, the plaintiff is the copyright holder to a video game for use on a computer. The plaintiff claims that the defendant produced an animated video that is based on the principal characters the plaintiff created. This conduct, the plaintiff alleges, amounts to an infringement of its copyrights (the right of reproduction and the right of adaptation) and its moral rights (the right to preserve the integrity of a work). The plaintiff has prayed for an injunction ordering the defendant to cease its manufacture, sale, and distribution of its Video Tape and for specific monetary damages.

A. Facts (except for evidence to the contrary, these facts are stipulated to by the parties)

1. …

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