Patent Japan

Friday, September 29, 2006

Business Method Patent

On September 28, 2006, Japan Patent Office released a report (available only in Japanese) on the recent trend in business method patent.

I remember the days when BM patent applications were beginning to flood in Japan after the State Street decision at the US Federal Circuit in 1998. The phenomenon is clearly illustrated in the first figure (yellow lines represent the applications for business-related inventions whose characterizing features are not business method, and blue lines are the ones for business method itself).

It should be noted however that the JPO's definitions of patentable subject matters regarding computer-implemented inventions are not so broad as in the US. This figure (blue lines are the number and the ratio of grant decisions, and red lines are those of refused decisions) evidently shows that most of the patent applications are rejected in this field – less than 10% has been allowed after 2003.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

JPO Annual Report

On September 15, 2006, Japan Patent Office published the Annual Report of 2006. It is now available only in Japanese, but it will soon be published also in English. Previous Reports are here.

It is a compilation of previously published contents, so basically nothing new, but one of the things that draw my attention is survey results of intellectual property-related activities conducted by JPO.
According to the survey, it is estimated that there are about 45,000 IP-related personnel in Japan (42,000 in industry and 3,000 in universities or other public organizations), and that JPY 916 billion has been spent in FY 2004 as IP-related activities (JPY 517 billion in prosecution, 14 billion to compensation to inventors, 262 billion as personnel expenses).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Substantive Patent Law Treaty

On September 26, 2006, Nikkei Shimbun posted an article as follows.

Japan, U.S., Others Agree To Craft 1st-To-File Patent Pact
GENEVA (Nikkei) -- Japan, the U.S. and European nations are among 41 countries that have reached a basic agreement to draft a treaty for standardizing the patent approval process based on the first-to-file principle, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun learned Monday.

Confirmed facts are that;
- 41 developed countries, along with European Commission and European Patent Office, had a talk on September 24 in Geneva regarding patent law harmonization hosted by Japan;
- it was agreed at the talk that a draft text on substantive patent law treaty will be drawn up by the next meeting based on the framework text proposed by the chairperson;
- major requirements for patentability are included in the framework, including the first-to-file provision; and
- the next meeting, as a working group, will be convened in Tokyo next November.
(41 nations : Japan, United States, 25 countries of European Union (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom), Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Andorra, Vatican, San Marino, Iceland, Switzerland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Monaco, Lichtenstein, Romania)

It should be noted that the draft framework text is provisionary, and could be subject to change in the future. Particularly, regarding the first-to-file provision, because patent reform bills are now on the table in the US Congress, the outcome is not certain at this stage.

Monday, September 25, 2006

PM Koizumi's Visit to JPO

On September 14, 2006, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Japan Patent Office.

This was the first visit by prime ministers to JPO, as far as I know during my career of 15 years at JPO. Mr. Koizumi will quit as a prime minister after more than five years of his service at the end of this month. The Basic Law on Intellectual Property was enacted in 2002, for the first time in the history of Japan, under his cabinet.

He visited several divisions, including Patent Examination Division, but I missed the chance to see him in person, unfortunately.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

JPO's Cooperation with SIPO for Design Database

On September 18, 2006, Nikkei Shimbun reported that JPO will cooperate with the State Intellectual Property Office of China in building design prior art database.

China is now in the process of Patent Law revision (see my previous blog) in which it is stipulated in Section A6 that design patent holders would be required to present a search report written by SIPO when they would try to enforce their design patents against third parties. (This revised provision is also to be applicable to utility models cases.) Design patents are now and will be issued in China only after formality examination.

This cooperation will surely help SIPO make prior art search, and also be useful against frivolous litigation by ostensible design patent holders.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

JIPA's Comment on New IDS Proposal

On September 7, 2006, Japan Intellectual Property Association published a comment on the USPTO's proposal of the changes to Information Disclosure Statement Requirements.

JIPA expressed in the comment dissatisfaction over the proposed additional explanation about explanation of relevancy, patentability justification, and, especially, they are against the proposal in that the additional explanation is to be automatically required for non-English prior art document.

Unification of patent application format is an agenda in the framework of Trilateral Conference (USPTO, EPO, JPO) or of WIPO, but it doesn't seem that IDS issue is included there, nor that JPO has made its comment on this proposal by USPTO.