Japanese courts slow to adopt information technologies

Finally, Japan’s courts are going to use information technologies for proceedings. Despite widespread use of IT in daily life, we have been required to conduct paper-based procedures and go to court for a brief preparatory proceeding. It would be welcome to improve this situation, but it’s too slow. The 伝えられました。 rough schedule is as follows. 

  1. Arrangement of Issues using web conferencing in some courts: Around February 2020
  2. Submission of briefs using cloud services in some courts : Fiscal 2021
  3. Online oral argument: Fiscal 2022 (after revision of Civil Procedure Law)
  4. Online filing of lawsuit: Not yet scheduled

It has been pointed out that Japan is behind Singapore, China, South Korea and other countries in the adoption of IT for proceedings. In Japan, there is a saying “Knocking on a strong stone bridge before crossing it”. It means to be excessively cautious. Today’s Japan seems not to be able to cross the bridge before everyone else cross it.

My concern is that Japan may be not able to change its current situation until it recognize the fact that Japan is behind other countries, especially China and Korea. I’m afraid that innovative people around the world will not want to partner with a country or companies that have such a mindset.

On the other hand, Japan’s patent office (JPO) has been an early adopter of information technologies, e.g. online filing system, search system. However, it is still scope for  improvement, especially for the processes after registration. For example, we are still required to apply in writing for registration of an assignment of a patent right. According to JPO, they handled about 10,000 applications for registration of transfer of 86,000 patents in 2018. And, they often find formality errors in these applications. Computerization of such kind of process would make both applicants and JPO happier. 

If JPO further improves the system, IP management system vendors will support it immediately, and it will lead to better productivity. I’m expecting JPO to expand IT adoption.