As reported by Ellie Wilson on the IP Kat blog, the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) has announced a program whereby half of the premiums for IP infringement insurance will be covered. The program is a partnership between the JPO, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The National Federation of Small Business Associations, and three insurance companies. Specifically, the subsidy is directed at making affordable IP infringement litigation insurance for SMEs that are operating in countries outside of Japan. The announcement appears to cover both the need for the SME to fund IP infringement litigation against alleged infringers and to defend litigation. Notably, the announcement explicitly mentions China as a market of concern; although my guess is that a concern with so-called patent trolls in the United States is also an issue.
This announcement comes close in time to reports of increased enforcement of intellectual property rights in China, particularly as China reportedly is attempting to move toward an innovation and services based economy. Interestingly, the official website for The Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China published an article by Ma Si (China Daily) concerning the move of smart phone wars to China titled, "Chances high for more patent cases." The article discusses the recent stayed injunction against Apple and the prospects for more patent cases given actions in the United States concerning Huawei. Huawei and Samsung are also embroiled in litigation in China.
Given the importance of SMEs to economic growth and job creation as well as the general high cost of litigation, it will be interesting to see if more countries move to subsidize IP litigation insurance. Are there any other countries subsidizing IP litigation insurance? Instead of regulating against so-called patent trolls, is this where government should intervene--helping insurance markets develop and lowering the cost of insurance, particularly for SMEs? Should government back insurance funds for IP litigation?
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