formal

米国:AFCP試行プログラム実施期間延長

米国特許商標庁(USPTO)は、特許(Utility Patent)・意匠(Design Patent)出願に対する最後の拒絶理由通知(Final Office Action)後に、審査の再考を促す機会を与えるAfter Final Consideration Pilot(AFCP)プログラムを、2012年3月25日から6月16日までに提出された応答を対象として実施しておりましたが、この試行期間が2012年9月30日まで延長されることとなりました。

現行の規則では最後の拒絶理由通知(Final Office Action)後に提出された補正や証拠を審査官に考慮させるためには、RCE等の手続きが必要になることが多いのですが、AFCP によって、Final後に提出された補正や証拠について、限定的な(特許で約3時間、意匠で約1時間以内で済むような)検討や調査によって、該補正や証拠により特許査定できるとの判断が可能な場合、RCE等を行わずに補正や証拠を審査官に考慮させることが可能になります。

AFCPにより、Final後に可能になる補正や応答は以下のようなものです:

1.  The amendment places the application in condition for allowance by canceling claims or complying with formal requirement(s) in response to objection(s) made in the final office action. (クレームを削除する補正若しくは方式上の拒絶(objection)理由を取り除く補正であって、それにより出願を特許許可できる状態とするもの)

2.  The amendment places the application in condition for allowance by rewriting objected-to claims in independent form. (方式上の拒絶を受けたクレームを独立形式とする補正であって、それにより出願を特許許可できる状態とするもの)

3.  The amendment places the application in condition for allowance by incorporating limitations from objected-to claims into independent claims, if the new claim can be determined to be allowable with only a limited amount of further consideration or search. (方式上の拒絶を受けたクレームの限定を独立クレームに組み込む補正であって、それにより出願を特許許可できる状態とするものであり、且つ限定的な更なる検討または調査によって、その新たなクレームが特許許可できると判断できる場合)

4.  The amendment can be determined to place the application in condition for allowance with only a limited amount of further search or consideration, even if new claims are added without cancelling a corresponding number of finally rejected claims. (新たなクレームを追加し、それに相当する数の最終的に拒絶(reject)されたクレームを削除しないような場合であっても、その補正によって、限定的な更なる検討または調査で出願が特許許可できる状態となると判断できるもの )

(*注: 本来は、MPEP714.13において、Final後は、新たなクレームを追加することはできないと規定されている)

5.  The amendment can be determined to place the application in condition for allowance by adding new limitation(s) which require only a limited amount of further consideration or search. (限定的な更なる検討または調査のみしか必要としない新たな限定を加える補正であって、その補正により出願が特許許可できる状態となると判断できるもの)

6.  The response comprises a perfected 37 CFR 1.131 or 37 CFR 1.132 affidavit or declaration (i.e. a new declaration which corrects formal defects noted in a prior affidavit or declaration) which can be determined to place the application in condition for allowance with only a limited amount of further search or consideration (37 CFR 1.131 又は 37 CFR 1.132の宣誓供述書(Affidavit)又は宣言書(Declaration)の完全版(即ち、以前に提出されたAffidavit又はDeclarationの形式的な欠陥を訂正したもの)を含む応答であって、その応答により出願が特許許可できる状態となると判断できるもの)

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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.

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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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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