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IP High Court Grand Panel Decision and Supreme Court Decision Establishing New Interpretive Criteria for the Doctrine of Equivalents (DoE)

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Abstract
Five requirements for allowing infringement under the Doctrine of Equivalents (DoE) were formulated by the Supreme Court in 1998. However, infringement under the DoE was hardly found even thereafter, mainly due to strict criteria for the 1st requirement (“non-essential part” requirement) and the 5th requirement (“special circumstance” disclaimer, or estoppel). To address this situation, the Grand Panel of the Intellectual Property (IP) High Court handed down a decision on March 25, 2016 (“Maxacalcitol” case), which relaxed the criteria for the 1st and 5th requirements of DoE. The appeal against this IP High Court decision was dismissed on March 24, 2017, by the Supreme Court, which approved the IP High Court’s criteria for the 5th requirement with slight modifications. This article summarizes the rulings rendered by the IP High Court and the Supreme Court in these decisions, and predicts the influence of these rulings.

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