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Toshiaki Iimura, Japanese IP High Court: Making excuses

Already known as Japan’s IP maverick, Toshiaki Iimura is now in a position to fundamentally change the country’s IP landscape

Unlike traditional judges, Iimura is not afraid to speak his mind

A returning member of the Top 50, Toshiaki Iimura was elevated to the role of Chief Judge of the IP High Court of Japan in April. Already considered the most influential IP judge in the country, his new position confirms his status as a key voice in reforming Japan's IP system.

"Iimura has handed down a number of influential decisions, such as holdings limiting obviousness attacks on patents"

Although Japan has long had a reputation for not protecting IP owners, Iimura has handed down a number of influential decisions in contrast to this, such as holdings limiting obviousness attacks on patents. He has also handed down landmark decisions in other areas of IP, such as upholding Coca Cola's trade mark registration for the shape of its bottle.

"I thought Judge Iimura was genuinely concerned about how IP cases will influence industry," Naoki Yoshida of Finnegan told Managing IP in an interview. "He was concerned with the message they send to patent holders." Iimura is also seen as an ambassador for intellectual property in Japan, often speaking at events and educating others about the Japanese system.

"There is a Japanese proverb, 'judges don't make excuses'," says Takanori Abe of Abe Law in Osaka, meaning that judges are often hesitant to talk about their decisions and reasoning outside of court. Judge Iimura is an exception. He openly speaks about legal decisions as well as issues facing the entire IP system. As the new chief judge, he is likely to play a big role in shaping IP rights Japan and influencing the thinking of others.

Further reading:

Profile: Meet Japan's new chief IP judge
IP High Court may be changing inventive step rules
Key cases of 2009

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