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Welcome to the website of Inoue & Associates

Introductory Statement

Inoue & Associates (located within 1 minute walk from the Japan Patent Office) is an intellectual property (IP) firm having more than 35 years of experience in international IP business.

We are a modest-sized IP firm composed of members each having profound knowledge about the legal aspect of IP and the technologies involved therein as well as excellent skill in actual IP practice, such that high quality services can be offered constantly at a reasonable price.  Each one of our staff members is so trained as to be able to always provide high quality IP-related services including production of documents having a clear and logical construction whether they are in English or Japanese and irrespective of urgency or technical difficulties involved in particular cases.

Over the years, we have built up a solid reputation for our ability to efficiently acquire and protect IP rights in Japan.

We are confident that we can provide higher quality IP services than any other IP firms in Japan.


Features of Inoue & Associates

For acquiring and protecting patent rights, everything starts from the claims and specification of a patent application or a granted patent.  Whether a patent application can be granted with a desired protective scope or a granted patent can survive the challenge from a third party depends utterly on how good the claims and specification have been drafted in the first place.

Invalidation of patents, unexpectedly narrow scope of protection, defeat in infringement suit … all such undesired outcome could have been avoided only if the patent application had been better drafted. 

In the case of Japanese patent applications filed by non-Japanese entities, the claims and specification are usually translations from the non-Japanese texts of the first filed foreign applications or PCT applications. 

From this perspective, the translation of the patent claims and specification is actually more than just a translation and is practically tantamount to the preparation of a legal document which serves as a basis for seeking patent protection.  For this reason, the translation should be done with utmost care by IP professionals such as experienced patent attorneys or paralegals

And that is what we do and is not done by most of the IP firms in Japan

 

Problems related to traditional way of handling patent applications from outside Japan

In typical Japanese IP firms, applications from foreign clients are handled by a team of an IP professional (a patent attorney or a paralegal) and a translator. For example, the translation of a PCT specification for the Japan national phase entry is often carried out by one who is the least experienced in the IP firm or even by an outside translator.

The IP professions work on legal matters based on the translations prepared by translators which are not always so good or of a rather poor quality in many cases. This manner of handling patents is disadvantageous not only from the aspect of efficiency but also from the aspect of cost because poor translations of course make the entire procedure unnecessarily complicated and high translation fees are required even if the translations are not so good. Such inefficient and problematic practice as mentioned above has become customary because many Japanese IP professionals are not good at writing in English or even reading English documents, and the English-to-Japanese translations are generally assigned to beginners.

Consequently, many Japanese IP professionals have to rely on poor translations in their works, thus falling into a vicious cycle. It is not surprising even if patent applications from foreign clients are handled by those who do not fully understand what is disclosed in the original specification nor the clients’ instructions given in English during the prosecution of the application. For years, this has been a serious problem as far as the patent applications from outside Japan are concerned.

Our Solution

Such problems as mentioned above will never happen in the case of Inoue & Associates. Every one of our staff members has gone through very hard training and long actual experience to acquire ability to handle the IP cases alone from drafting patent specifications whether they are in Japanese or English to dealing with various procedures relating to patent applications or registered patents. We do not need and actually do not use any translator. Even in the case of foreign patent applications (in US, EP etc.) filed by Japanese applicants through our firm, the US or European patent attorneys often use our draft documents without any substantial change. That is, the documents drafted by Inoue & Associates as such are often submitted to the USPTO or the EPO.

There is no magic formula for acquiring good IP rights. This can be achieved only by hard work and skill obtainable through long and rich experience as always required in any fields for realizing high quality services.

Inoue & Associates is one of the very limited number of Japanese IP firms capable of constantly offering high quality IP services at a reasonable price. There has been and will be no compromise in the quality of services we provide to our clients and, for this very reason, we have been trusted by many foreign clients as well as domestic clients.

Our skill in IP business is highly esteemed by our clients including two famous Japanese professors emeriti, Dr. Nobuatsu Watanabe and Dr. Hidefumi Hirai, whose recommendations are shown in this web site. Further, if requested, we will be able to show you copies of some letters from various US and EP attorneys praising our abilities.

Our highly-skilled staff members will surely be of great help to your establishment of strong and valuable intellectual property portfolio while reducing cost.

If you are not sure, try us and we promise that we will never fall short of your expectations. You will immediately realize that we are dedicated to efficient acquisition and protection of your valuable intellectual properties and have skills to achieve this goal.

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Trademarks

Q1. If a trademark application is to be filed in Japan claiming Convention Priority based on a non-Japanese application, is the priority period one year as in patent applications? 

A1.  No. For filing a trademark application in Japan claiming Convention priority, the priority period is six (6) months, instead of one year, from the filing of the priority application. 

Q2. Are there any specific points to be noted for registering a trademark in Japan?

A2.  Some of the points to be noted for registering a trademark in Japan are as follows.

(1)  Goods and services acceptable in Japan:  In the case of trademark registration in Japan via Madrid protocol, the JPO may object to the indications of goods/services in the International Register as being too vague even if they should be acceptable under the NICE Agreement.  This is because the JPO relies on its own list of goods and services as prescribed in the examination standards.  For example, “Apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water” found in the NICE Classifications is not found acceptable by the JPO, and it should be amended to “Aircraft; automobiles; bicycles; motorcycles; rolling stock for railways; ships”.  The amendment of indications is possible as long as it is within the scope of the original Madrid protocol application. 

(2)  Requirement for use of trademark:  A registrable trademark in Japan is a trademark which is being used or which is intended to be used in the near future.  When the range of the goods and services listed in one class is too broad, the trademark will be rejected because the veracity of use or intention of use of the trademark becomes doubtful.

(3)  Registrable subject matter:  Currently, sounds, smells, colors, textures, tastes and movements are not registerable as trademarks in Japan.  (However, the JPO is planning to submit a bill to revise the trademark law to the Japanese Diet in 2013.  So, registration of the mentioned subjects as trademarks may become possible in the near future.)

Q3. Are there any means to accelerate examination of a trademark application in Japan?

A3. Yes.  A request for accelerated examination can be filed anytime after the filing of your trademark application, and the request should be granted as long as the following condition 1 or 2 is met .

Condition 1 : Actual use of trademark and need for quick registration 

You or your licensee is already using your trademark for the goods or services designated in your application, or are preparing to use the trademark, AND

The trademark rights need to be granted urgently due to any one or more of the following reasons:

   1) A third party is using a trademark which is the same or similar to your trademark without authorization from you or your licensee, in connection with designated goods or services that are the same or similar to the goods and services for which you or your licensee has been using the trademark, or for which you or your licensee has prepared to a considerable degree to use the trademark.

   2) A third party has given a warning with respect to the use of your trademark.

   3) A third party is demanding an agreement to their use of your trademark.

   4) You have also applied for the trademark registration at a Patent Office other than the Japan Patent Office (JPO), or to an intergovernmental organization.

Condition 2:  Use of trademark only for designated goods or services

Your application designates only the goods and services for which you or your licensee is already using the trademark or you or your licensee is preparing to use the trademark.

Q4. What are the documents necessary for filing a request for accelerated examination for a trademark application in Japan? 

A4.  A document entitled "Explanation of the Circumstances Concerning Accelerated Examination” should be filed together with evidence(s) showing that the above-mentioned Condition 1 or 2 is fulfilled by the trademark application. 

Q5. What are the specifics of the individual fee system for a trademark registration via Madrid Protocol designating Japan. 

A5.  The JPO has adopted an individual fee consisting of two parts in accordance with Rule 34(3)(a) of the Common Regulations under the Madrid Protocol.

First part of the individual fee:  This corresponds to an application fee, and is paid at the time of international registration or the subsequent designation. 

Second part of the individual fee:  This corresponds to a registration fee, and is paid within the prescribed period mentioned in the notification issued with the Notice of Grant.  Failure of payment results in cancellation of the designation of Japan in the international registration.

Both fees are to be paid directly to the International Bureau of the WIPO.

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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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