Navigating the Discovery Process: A Comparison Between U.S. and Japanese Legal Systems

Feb 13, 2024By Danny Katz


The global nature of intellectual property (IP) necessitates collaboration and communication between patent professionals from different countries. As Japanese patent professionals work with American law firms to prosecute their patents with the USPTO, it is essential to develop a strong understanding of the legal systems in both countries.

One area of particular importance is the discovery process, which plays a crucial role in gathering evidence and building a case. This article aims to provide an overview of the discovery process in the U.S. and Japanese legal systems and offer insights on how to navigate these differences to achieve success in IP cases.

The U.S. Discovery Process: A Broad Scope

In the United States, the discovery process is an essential phase of litigation. It allows parties to obtain information and evidence from each other, which can prove vital in building a strong case.

The U.S. legal system encourages transparency and comprehensive information exchange, aiming to facilitate fair and efficient resolution of disputes.

The discovery process in the U.S. is guided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). These rules grant litigants the right to request various forms of discovery, including document production, interrogatories, depositions, and requests for admissions.

In IP cases, parties often seek evidence that substantiates infringement or invalidity claims, as well as financial data to assess potential damages.

The Japanese Discovery Process: A Limited Approach

In contrast to the broad discovery process in the U.S., the Japanese legal system has a more limited approach.

The Japanese Code of Civil Procedure (JCCP) governs the discovery process, which focuses on narrowing down the scope of evidence and minimizing the burden on the parties involved. The JCCP allows for document production, but it is often limited to specific and narrowly defined requests.

Japanese courts also tend to rely more on the parties' voluntary submission of evidence. They may order the production of documents or the examination of witnesses only when they believe it is necessary for the resolution of the case.

This limited discovery process can make it more challenging for patent owners to gather the necessary evidence to support their claims.

Navigating the Differences in Discovery Processes

For Japanese patent professionals working with American law firms, understanding these differences in discovery processes is vital.

The broad scope of the U.S. discovery process may require more extensive preparation and document production than what Japanese patent professionals are used to. Additionally, understanding the nuances of U.S. discovery tools, such as depositions, can help Japanese professionals effectively participate in and contribute to the litigation process.

To navigate these differences and foster effective communication, consider the following tips:

1. Collaborate closely with your American counterparts: Work together to develop a thorough understanding of the legal strategies and the evidence needed for the case. Regular communication and collaboration can help bridge the gap between the two discovery systems.

2. Be proactive in gathering evidence: Given the limited nature of discovery in the Japanese system, it may be necessary to be more proactive in seeking evidence to support your case. Consider employing internal investigations, expert opinions, and other methods to gather relevant information.

3. Seek assistance from specialized experts: Engaging the services of experts experienced in both U.S. and Japanese legal systems can help you navigate the complexities of the discovery process. These professionals can provide valuable insights and guidance on how to approach discovery requests and manage document production effectively.


The differences between the U.S. and Japanese discovery processes can pose challenges for Japanese patent professionals working with American law firms. However, by developing a strong understanding of the nuances between the two systems and fostering effective communication and collaboration, patent professionals can successfully navigate these differences and achieve favorable outcomes in their IP cases.