Japan’s rival to Microsoft Word will launch after all

Japanese software maker Justsystem Corp. has cleared the way for the launch of its Ichitaro word processing software this week by appealing a court ruling that had blocked the sale of its product on patent infringement grounds.

The software is the only viable competitor in Japan to Microsoft Corp.’s Word. A court ruling last week found Justsystem’s products violated a patent held by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic). The ruling had threatened to delay the launch of Ichitaro 2005, as well as its graphics software package Hanako 2005.

At issue was a function that allows users to call up information on software functions by pressing a help button and then clicking on an area of the desktop about which they need assistance. Matsushita claimed that the help and print buttons represented icons and thus violated its Japanese patent number 2,803,236, which was registered in 1998.

The Tokyo District Court found in Matsushita’s favor last week and ruled that sales of Ichitaro and Hanako be suspended while existing stocks of the program be destroyed. By filing an appeal Tuesday at the Tokyo High Court, the lower court’s ruling is delayed and Justsystem is free to continue with the previously planned Feb. 10 launch of both software packages.