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Attorney/Recommendations

Patent Attorney

Name:  Junzo WATANABE

Registration No.:  11683 (registered in 2000)

Education:   

  Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Kumamoto University

  Department of Law, Faculty of Law, Chuo University

Recommendations

■1) Nobuatsu Watanabe [Title: Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University, Doctor of Engineering; Award: The Chemical Society Japan Award (1980), Purple Ribbon Medal (Shijuhosho) (1987), etc.]

Mr. Inoue, the Senior Partner, is my former student. He has both excellent linguistic ability and excellent expertise. The staff of Inoue & Associates are well-trained by Mr. Inoue, and the high quality services provided by Mr. Inoue and his staff are self-explanatory from the documents made by them. From my experience, I firmly believe that they will help you to promptly and surely acquire intellectual property rights, based on adequate judgment made by fully utilizing their professional skills in combination with their rich experience in pursuit of patent rights in many countries for many years.

■2) Hidefumi Hirai [Title: Professor Emeritus of The University of Tokyo, Doctor of Engineering; Award: The Chemical Society Japan Award (1984), etc.]

Mr. Inoue, the Senior Partner, and his staff are familiar with foreign patent laws and patent practices. Further, the quality of their services based on accurate understanding of technical background and excellent linguistic ability is prominent in this business. In addition, Mr. Inoue already has his appropriate successor and I, therefore, trust Inoue & Associates for their excellent procedures of filing patent applications through reliable prosecutions for grant of patents.

Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) Program

Q1. Is a prosecution under the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) program*1 available in Japan?

A1.  Yes.  The PPH programs have been implemented between the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the Patent Offices of the following countries (as of August 2012):  Austria, Canada, China, Denmark, EPO, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

The JPO also implements the PPH MOTTAINAI pilot program*2 with the following countries (as of August 2012):  Australia, Canada, EPO, Finland, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States.

*1 The PPH program is a framework in which a patent application with claims determined to be patentable by the Office of First Filing is eligible to go through an accelerated examination in the Office(s) of Second Filing, upon the applicant’s request.

*2 The PPH MOTTAINAI pilot program is a PPH program which enables an applicant to make PPH requests at the Office of Later Examination (OLE) by relying on the examination results of the Office of Earlier Examination (OEE), provided that the OEE and OLE have a PPH MOTTAINAI agreement.  In this program, OEE may not be the Office of First Filing, and accelerated examination can be filed based on the examination results of the Office(s) of Second Filing.

Q2. What are the documents necessary for filing a request for an accelerated examination under the PPH program in Japan?

A2.  Documents necessary for filing a request for an accelerated examination under the PPH program in Japan include:

(1)  Request for Accelerated Prosecution under PPH Program;

(2)  Amendment for bringing the Japanese claims in conformity with the claims allowed by the participating patent office other than the JPO (if necessary);

(3)  Table showing the relationship between the (amended) claims of the Japanese application and the allowed claims mentioned in (2);

(4)  All Office Actions issued by the participating patent office (omissible if available via an online file inspection sysmtem provided by the patent office);

(5)  Non-patent documents cited in the Office Action issued by the participating patent office (filing of patent documents is not required);

(6)  Copy of the allowed claims (omissible if available via an online file inspection system provided by the patent office); and

(7)  Japanese or English translations of documents (4) and (6) above when these documents are not in English.

Documents (1) to (3) must be prepared in Japanese.  Although some or all of the information included in items (4), (5) and (6) may be omitted, we usually request the applicant to provide us with such information since it is generally useful for preparing the Japanese language documents (1) to (3).

Q3. Is it possible to request an accelerated examination based on the PCT international work products?

A3.  The JPO has commenced the PPH programs based on the PCT international work products (PCT-PPH) on pilot basis.  According to current schedule (as of August 2012), this program will continue until January 28, 2014.  Participating in PCT-PPH (as of August 2012) are the following 14 countries and organizations: China, Denmark, the EPO, Finland, Iceland, Korea, Mexico, the Nordic Patent Institute, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

Under the PCT-PPH programs, an accelerated examination can be requested in Japan using search and examination results (namely, written opinion or international preliminary examination report (IPER)) established by the International Searching Authorities (WO/ISA) or International Preliminary Examining Authorities (WO/IPEA) of the above-mentioned countries or organizations when any one of the examination results indicate that at least one of the claims has novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.

Detailed requirements for filing a request for PCT-PPH may vary depending on which country's ISA or IPEA has carried out search.  Therefore, please let us know if you are interested in PCT-PPH and need more information.

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Utility Models

Q1. What are the differences between a patent and a utility model in Japan? 

A1.  The utility model system in Japan like in other countries having this system is for protecting minor innovations which are often called “small inventions”.

The distinct features of the utility model system are:  

     that a utility model registration is only for protecting “devices” related to shape or construction of articles or combination of articles (in other words, other inventions, such as methods, chemical compounds and pharmaceuticals, cannot be protected under utility model act);

     that a utility model is registered without substantive examination; and

     that a duration of a registered utility model is only 10 years from the filing date of the utility model application.

Differences between a patent and a utility model are summarized in the following Table.

  Patent Utility Model
Subject of protection Devices, methods, chemical compounds, etc. Devices related to shape or construction of articles or combination of articles (Methods, chemical compounds, etc. cannot be protected)
Application documents required Specification including Claims and Abstract; and, if any, Drawing(s) (optional) Specification including Claims and Abstract; and Drawing(s) (not omissible)
Substantive examination Request for Examination must be filed within 3 years from the filing date No substantive examination; Registered when basic formal requirements are fulfilled
Time period required for registration Possibly, several years from filing of the Request for Examination About 4-6 months from the filing date
Duration of protection 20 years from the filing date (may be extended in some cases) 10 years from the filing date (non-extensible)
Enforcement of right Enforceable based on granted patent Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion” is necessary for enforcing the utility model right

 

Q2. What is a “Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion”?

A2.  The Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion is an assessment report about the registrability (novelty, inventive step, etc.) of a utility model application or a registered utility model.  This report is prepared by an Examiner of the Japan Patent Office upon request and payment of official fees.  Anyone (that is, not only the Applicant of the utility model, but also any third party) can validly file a request for the Report.

As explained in item “A1” above, a utility model is registered without a substantive examination.  In this connection, for an owner of a utility model to enforce the utility model right against an infringer, firstly, a warning accompanied by the Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion must be sent to the infringer.  Therefore, the above-mentioned Report is necessary for instituting an infringement suit in Japan.

Q3. Is it possible to convert a patent application into a utility model application?

A3.  Yes.  Conversion of a patent application into a utility model application is allowed if an appropriate step is taken within 3 months (for Applicants residing in Japan) or 4 months (for Applicants residing outside Japan) from the mailing date of the Decision for Rejection, or within nine years and six months from the filing date of the patent application, whichever expires earlier.  Such a converted utility model application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the original patent application, and the original patent application is deemed to be withdrawn.

Q4. Is it possible to convert a utility model application into a patent application?

A4.  Yes.  Conversion of a utility model application (or a registered utility model resulting therefrom) into a patent application is allowed if an appropriate step is taken within 3 years from the filing date of the utility model application.  However, it should be noted that such conversion is not allowed after the applicant (or an assignee) has filed a request for the above-mentioned Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion, or after a 30-day period has passed from the date of a first official notice advising that a third party has filed a request for the Report of Utility Model Technical Opinion.  Such a converted patent application is entitled to the benefit of the filing date of the original utility model application, and the original utility model application is deemed to be withdrawn.  (Such a converted patent application cannot be converted back into a utility model application.)

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