Q1

PCT National Phase in Japan

Q1. What are the time limits for entering Japanese national phase under PCT Chapters I and II?

A1.  The time limit is 30 months from the earliest priority date (if any) or the international filing date of the PCT application for both Chapters I and II.

Q2. Are Japanese translations of the PCT specification, abstract and drawings necessary for entering the Japanese national phase?

A2.  Yes.  Japanese translations of the PCT specification, abstract and drawings must be filed with the Japan Patent Office.  Further, Japanese translations of amendments under PCT Article 19 and 34 (if any) should be filed with the Japanese translations of the specification, abstract and drawings.

Q3. The time limit for entering Japanese national phase is drawing near but it seems unlikely that a Japanese translation of the PCT specification can be timely prepared.  Does the JPO allow postponement of the filing of the Japanese translation? 

A3.  We can first file a “formal notice of entry into Japanese national phase” by the 30-month deadline for entry into Japanese national phase and, then, file Japanese translations of the PCT specification, abstract and drawings.  The formal notice can be prepared at our end based on the information shown in the cover page of the international publication.  The Japanese translations may be validly filed within 2 months from the date of the filing of the above-mentioned formal notice of entry.  No extra charge is necessary for such delayed filing of the Japanese translations.

Exceptions to Lack of Novelty of Invention

Q1. We understand that Japan has a grace period for avoiding certain public disclosures from constituting prior art against a Japanese application.  How long is this grace period?

A1.  The grace period defined under Article 30 of the Japanese patent law (Exceptions to Lack of Novelty of Invention) is 6 months from the date of public disclosure.

Q2. What type of disclosures is capable of taking advantage of the Exceptions to Lack of Novelty of Invention in Japan?

A2.  According to current Article 30 of the Japanese patent law (effective as of April 1, 2012), virtually any disclosure, including “inventions made public at meetings and seminars, which are not academic conference designated by the Commissioner of the Patent Office, inventions made public on TV and radio, and inventions made public through sales”, are covered by the Exceptions to Lack of Novelty of Invention.  However, a patent publication is not a non-prejudicial disclosure.

Q3. Is the grace period applicable to scientific articles published on the web? 

A3.  The 6-month grace period is also applicable to electronic publications of scientific articles.  When a scientific article is published in the form of an electronic publication in advance to the publication in print, the 6-month grace period will start from the date of the electronic publication.  This rule applies not only to a free electronic publication, but also to an electronic publication which requires registered membership and/or purchase of the publication for accessing the electronic publication.

Q4. An invention has been published as a scientific article and a basic patent application has been filed in the US within 6 months from the publication of the scientific article.  Already 10 months have passed from the publication of the scientific article, but is it still possible to enjoy the benefit of the Japanese 6-month grace period by filing a Japanese patent application claiming the Paris convention priority from the basic US application filed within 6 months from the publication date? 

A4.  No.  Claiming of the Paris convention priority does not allow the filing date in Japan to date back for the purpose of grace period.  In other words, when a basic application is filed in other country within 6 months from the date of public disclosure, and a Japanese patent application claiming the convention priority from the basic application is filed after the expiration of the 6-months grace period, the Japanese patent application cannot enjoy the benefit of the grace period.

For receiving the benefit of the 6-month grace period in Japan, the Applicant must file within the 6-month grace period either one of the following applications:

   (1) Japanese national patent application*, or

   (2) PCT application designating Japan as one of the designated states. 

* Either a Japanese patent application or a PCT application claiming the convention priority from this Japanese patent application can be filed after the expiration of the grace period and still enjoy the benefit of the grace period.

Q5. What are the steps necessary for obtaining the benefit of the Japanese 6-month grace period?  

A5.  Necessary steps are explained separately for Japanese national patent application and PCT application.

Japanese national patent application:

A patent application is filed simultaneously with a Request for Grace Period within 6 months from the date of public disclosure.  Alternatively, the Request may be omitted by stating such effect in the patent application.

Next, a Document Verifying the Request, which is signed by all applicants, is filed within 30 days from the filing date of the patent application.  Filing of a specific evidence material (such as a copy of the scientific article disclosing the invention) is not required, but it is most advisable to file the evidence material with the Document.

PCT application designating Japan:

When a PCT application designating Japan as one of the designated states is filed within the 6 month grace period, such a PCT application will obtain the benefit of the grace period even when the PCT application enters the Japanese national phase after the expiration of the grace period (i.e., within non-extensible 30 month deadline).  In this case, both the Request for Grace Period and the Document Verifying the Request are filed within 30 days from the entry into the Japanese national phase. 

[Filing of the Request for Grace Period can be omitted when “Declaration as to Non-Prejudicial Disclosures or Exceptions to Lack of Novelty” (PCT Rule 4.17(v), 26ter.1) is made at the international stage.]

The Document Verifying the Request can be prepared at our end and forwarded for execution by the applicant(s). 

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Change of Applicant of a Pending Patent Application

Q1. What are the documents necessary for changing the applicant of a pending Japanese application?

A1.  For recordal of a new applicant at the Japan Patent Office, we need an Assignment from the original applicant (assignor) to assign a part or whole of the right to obtain patent to the new applicant (assignee).  Specifically, the following documents must be filed with the Japan Patent Office:

   (1) An executed assignment simply signed by both parties (the assignor and the assignee), in which the full names and titles of the representatives of the assignor and the assignee should be clearly indicated.

   (2) A power of attorney executed by the assignee.

Neither notarization nor legalization of documents (1) and (2) are required.  These documents may be prepared at our end and forwarded for execution by the assignor and the assignee.

Q2. Does the Japan Patent Office issue an official certificate for the recordal of a new applicant?

A2.  No certificate is issued by the Japan Patent Office.  Recordal of a new applicant can be confirmed by checking the patent database.

Addition of New Inventor to a Pending Patent Application

Q1. What are the statutory requirements for being named as an inventor in a Japanese application?

A1.  The statutory requirements for being named as an inventor in a Japanese application are the same as the US requirements.  Although an “inventor” is not clearly defined under the Japanese Patent Law, it is understood that an inventor is a person who actually participated in the creation of an invention, and either a mere assistant, an advisor, a person who provided financial support or a person who only gave instructions is not an inventor.

Q2. What are the documents necessary for adding an inventor to a pending Japanese application?

A2.  For adding a new inventor to a patent application, we need to file a Statement executed by the applicant and all inventors (Neither notarization nor legalization of the Statement is required). 

Such a Statement can be prepared at our end and forwarded for execution by the applicant and the inventors. 

Notice of Rejection

Q1. How long is the response period for Notice of Rejection?  Is any extension available?

A1.  The response period for the Notice of Rejection is 60 days (for Applicants residing in Japan) or 3 months (for Applicants residing outside Japan).  Applicants residing in Japan can obtain 1-month extension, and Applicant residing outside Japan can obtain extension of up to 3 months upon filing of a Request for Extension and payment of official fee (which is 2,100 yen per month).

Q2. We received a final Notice of Rejection from the Japan Patent Office.  What are the differences between the Notice of Rejection and the Final Notice of Rejection?

A2.  In principle, Final Notice of Rejection is issued when a new ground of rejection is necessitated by the Applicant’s amendment of the claims filed in response to the previous Notice of Rejection.  When the Applicant fails to overcome the reason for rejection of the Final Notice of Rejection, next Office Action will be Decision for Rejection.

In addition, after the issuance of the Final Notice of Rejection, there is a restriction to the scope of permissible claim amendments.  Please see section “Restriction to Permissible Claim Amendments after Final Rejection” for more details.

Appeal against the Decision for Rejection

Q1. We understand that an Appeal can be filed against the Decision for Rejection.  What are the steps necessary for filing an Appeal?

A1.  Firstly, a Notice of Appeal, which is a formal document requesting the initiation of Appeal Proceedings, is filed by the deadline which is three months (for Applicants residing in Japan) or four months (for foreign Applicants) from the dispatch date of the Decision for Rejection. 

Further, any amendment  (if any) must be filed simultaneously with the filing of the Notice of Appeal.  (In the case of patent applications filed on or before March 31, 2007, divisional applications can be filed only simultaneously with the filing of the Notice of Appeal.  In the case of parent patent applications filed on or after April 1, 2007, divisional applications can be filed either before, simultaneously with or after the filing of the Notice of Appeal as long as it is before the expiration of the above-mentioned deadline for filing the Notice of Appeal.)  With respect to the amendment, please note that there is a restriction to the permissible claim amendments.  Please see section “Restriction to Permissible Claim Amendments after Final Rejection” for more details.

Next, any arguments, reference materials and/or experimental reports are filed as an Appeal Brief (i.e., Reasons for Appeal).  The Appeal Brief can be filed either simultaneously with the Notice of Appeal or after the filing of the Notice of Appeal.  When the Appeal Brief is not filed with the Notice of Appeal, the due date for filing the Appeal Brief will be set by the Japan Patent Office, and it is usually about 2 months from the filing date of the Notice of Appeal.

Q2. Is it possible to obtain any extension of deadline for filing the Notice of Appeal or the Appeal Brief?

A2.  No.  The deadlines for filing a Notice of Appeal and an Appeal Brief are non-extensible

Q3. Is it possible to submit new experimental data in the appeal stage?

A3.  Yes.  Any experimental data can be filed together with the Appeal Brief except that effectiveness of data may vary depending on the purpose of the data.

Submission of data for demonstrating novelty and/or inventive step of an invention over prior art is effective if the data itself is appropriate for this purpose; whereas data submitted at the appeal stage cannot compensate for the lack of enabling disclosure or lack of support in the specification, and such data are usually dismissed as late filed.

The Japanese patent system does not allow for applicants to establish the enabling disclosure requirement and/or supporting disclosure requirement through later-filed evidence. That is, these requirements must be satisfied by the patent application as filed, and later-filed data for making up the deficiency in this respect will not be admitted by the JPO.

Q4. Is there an opportunity to file additional amendments and/or divisional applications after the filing of the Notice of Appeal?

A4.  Concerning additional amendments after the filing of the Notice of Appeal, such additional amendments are admissible only when the applicant responds to a Notice of Rejection which may or may not be issued in the appeal stage.   That is, the applicant may not be given any opportunity to file an amendment after the filing of the Notice of Appeal.  Therefore, it is safer to consider that the time of filing of the Notice of Appeal is substantially the last chance to file amendments.

On the other hand, as mentioned in A1 above, in the case of patent applications filed on or after April 1, 2007, divisional applications may be filed even after the filing of the Notice of Appeal as long as it is before the expiration of the deadline for filing the Notice, i.e., three months (for Applicants residing in Japan) or four months (for foreign Applicants) from the dispatch date of the Decision for Rejection.

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