Case where a French non-corporate inventor got embroiled in a dispute in Japan

I started overseas cases.

This case was also assigned to our office because other attorneys could not cope with it. The client was a French individual inventor who was a well-known stage architect.

A stage architect is an architect specialized in construction of buildings such as opera houses. He had a patented invention relating to unique designing techniques in France and overseas and was applying for patents in Japan. It was when he began to do patent-based business in Japan.


There were two arguing points in this case: breach of contract with the French person attributable to a Japanese general contractor and a manufacturer of construction machines and alleged “patent infringement” that the concept of the invention was “used without permission” as “improved technology” of the manufacturer of construction machines.


With respect to the breach of contract, we won settlement of almost 100 million yen as compensation for damages at the Tokyo High Court, which substantially was a winning lawsuit. Unfortunately, however, the patent infringement was not within the scope of legal action even with application of the doctrine of equivalents although the manufacturer used the concept of the basic invention.


The French inventor dealt with us very roughly because he initially had a deep sense of mistrust of Japanese.


Let me show an example. One day, I sent him a facsimile letter stating that “notification of reasons for refusal was issued” for the application in Japan. In late afternoon of the following day, he made an international call from France, saying “Why was my application refused?” in a combative mood.


I told him in poor English that “This kind of notification is issued at least once in the course of an examination. It does not mean that your application is rejected eventually.” But he did not listen to me at all and began to mumble in French-accented English that “All Japanese are liars. I come up against a difficulty in Japan.”

I hang up the phone because I required self-improvement. Then I received a facsimile message “I apologize for my earlier rudeness” five minutes later. It was a very interesting experience.


The inventor, a very competent person who graduated from the faculty of architecture of University of Paris (the Sorbonne), refurbished the La Scala Theater in Milan. He was such a prominent figure in some field in France.

This was a case in which I keenly realized the lackluster performance and lack of the international sense of Japanese people and Japanese large companies which made such a competent person have a sense of mistrust of Japanese.


I have had a long-standing relationship with the French inventor since then. Although he is much older than me, we feel that we are “close friends.”


This case had me learn the sense of ethics of Japanese enterprises.

A company borrowed the basic concept of an invention of an individual inventor as “improvement” without obtaining the consent of the inventor and it hurt his pride badly. This fact made me think about various things.

I also keenly realized the difficulty and importance in helping a foreigner who were working hard on his own in an unfamiliar and distant country in the Orient