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米国での審査における実施可能性、新規性、非自明性の判断基準について

米国での審査通知への回答書において米国代理人が米国審査基準(MPEP)に参照して実施可能性・新規性・非自明性の法律的基準について述べた説明で、原則的な部分を理解する上で参考になるものがありましたので、多少補足を加えた上で、以下に紹介します。参考までに、英語と日本語訳文の両方を併記します。

Legal Standard for Enablement(実施可能性の法律的基準について)

The Federal Circuit has repeatedly held that "the specification must teach those skilled in the art how to make and use the full scope of the claimed invention without 'undue experimentation'." In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1561, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993).(連邦巡回裁判所はたびたび、以下の趣旨の判断を示してきた:「明細書は、当業者が『過度な実験』を行なうことなく本発明の全範囲を実現して使用するための方法を教示しなければならない」)

Nevertheless, not everything necessary to practice the invention need be disclosed. In fact, what is well-known is best omitted. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991).(しかし、発明の実施に必要な全てを開示する必要はない。実際、周知のものは省略しても構わない。)

All that is necessary is that one skilled in the art be able to practice the claimed invention, given the level of knowledge and skill in the art. Further the scope of enablement must only bear a "reasonable correlation" to the scope of the claims. See, e.g., In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970).(必要なことは、当業界の知識と技術の水準に鑑みて、クレームされた発明を当業者が実施できるように記載されていることだけである。)

As concerns the breadth of a claim relevant to enablement, the only relevant concern should be whether the scope of enablement provided to one skilled in the art by the disclosure is commensurate with the scope of protection sought by the claims. In re Moore, 439 F.2d 1232, 1236, 169 USPQ 236, 239 (CCPA 1971).(実施可能性との関連におけるクレームの広さについては、明細書の開示により当業者に提供された実施可能性と、クレームが要求する保護の範囲とが一致していさえすればよい。) How a teaching is set forth, by specific example or broad terminology, is not important. In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 223-24 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971).(教示の記載の仕方については、どのように記載されていても構わず、具体的実施態様による記載でもよいし、広い用語による記載でもよい。)

Legal Standard for Determining Anticipation(新規性判断の法律的基準について)

"A claim is anticipated only if each and every element as set forth in the claim is found, either expressly or inherently described, in a single prior art reference." Verdegaal Bros. v. Union Oil Co. of California, 814 F.2d 628, 631, 2 USPQ2d 1051, 1053 (Fed. Cir. 1987).(クレームに記載される全ての要素が明示的または潜在的に単一の先行技術文献に記載されている場合にのみ、クレームの新規性が欠如する。)

"When a claim covers several structures or compositions, either generically or as alternatives, the claim is deemed anticipated if any of the structures or compositions within the scope of the claim is known in the prior art." Brown v. 3M, 265 F.3d 1349, 1351, 60 USPQ2d 1375, 1376 (Fed. Cir. 2001) (クレームが複数の構造や組成物を含む場合には、複数の構造または複数の組成物のいずれか1でも先行技術文献に記載されているならば、クレームの新規性が欠如する。)

"The identical invention must be shown in as complete detail as is contained in the ... claim." Richardson v. Suzuki Motor Co., 868 F.2d 1226, 1236, 9 USPQ2d 1913, 1920 (Fed. Cir. 1989).(クレームされるものと詳細まで完全に一致する発明が示されていることが必要である)

The elements must be arranged as required by the claim, but this is not an ipsissimis verbis test, i.e., identity of terminology is not required. In re Bond, 910 F.2d 831, 15 USPQ2d 1566 (Fed. Cir. 1990).(クレームが要求する通りに要素が配置されていることが必要であるが、用語が同一である必要はない。)

Legal Standard for Prima Facie Obviousness (一応の自明性の判断の法律的基準について)

MPEP § 2141 sets forth the guidelines in determining obviousness. First, the Examiner has to take into account the factual inquiries set forth in Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 17, 148 USPQ 459 (1966), which has provided the controlling framework for an obviousness analysis.(MPEP § 2141には、自明性を判断するガイドラインが示されている。審査官は、まず、グラハム事件で採用された事実認定基準(いわゆる、Grahamテスト)を考慮しなければならない。) The four Graham factors are(4つのGrahamテストは以下の通りである):

(a) determining the scope and contents of the prior art(先行技術の範囲と内容を決定すること);

(b) ascertaining the differences between the prior art and the claims in issue(先行技術と当該クレームとの差を明確にすること);

(c) resolving the level of ordinary skill in the pertinent art(当業者の技術水準を確定すること); and

(d) evaluating any evidence of secondary considerations(二次的考慮事項の証拠を評価すること). Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 17, 148 USPQ 459, 467 (1966).

Second, the Examiner has to provide some rationale for determining obviousness.(次に審査官は、自明性を支持するための何らかの論理付けを提示することが必要である。) MPEP § 2143 sets forth some rationales that were established in the recent decision of KSR International Co. v Teleflex Inc., 82 USPQ2d 1385 (U.S. 2007)(MPEP § 2143には、KSR事件で確立された論理付けが示されている。). Exemplary rationales that may support a conclusion of obviousness include(自明性を支持するための典型的な論理付けは以下の通りである。):

(a) combining prior art elements according to known methods to yield predictable results(先行技術の要素を公知の方法で組み合わせて予想可能な結果を得ること);

(b) simple substitution of one known element for another to obtain predictable results(ある公知の要素を他の要素で単純に置換して予想可能な結果を得ること);

(c) use of known technique to improve similar devices (methods, or products) in the same way(公知技術を用いて類似の装置(方法や製品)を同様に改善すること);

(d) applying a known technique to a known device (method, or product) ready for improvement to yield predictable results(改善可能な状態にある公知の装置(方法や製品)に公知技術を適用して予想可能な結果を得ること);

(e) "obvious to try" - choosing from a finite number of identified, predictable solutions, with a reasonable expectation of success(「試みることが自明」-成功するという合理的な期待を持って、特定された予測可能な有限個の解決方法から選択すること);

(f) known work in one field of endeavor may prompt variations of it for use in either the same field or a different one based on design incentives or other market forces if the variations are predictable to one of ordinary skill in the art(ある技術分野において公知のものは、設計上の動機やその他の市場の力に基づいて、同じ技術分野や異なる技術分野で使用するためのバリエーションが当業者によって予測可能であれば、そのようなバリエーションを促すかもしれない。); and

(g) some teaching, suggestion, or motivation in the prior art that would have led one of ordinary skill to modify the prior art reference or to combine prior art reference teachings to arrive at the claimed invention.(先行技術文献を改変したり先行技術文献の教示を組み合わせてクレームされた発明に到達するように当業者を導いたであろう、先行技術における教示、示唆または動機。)

As the MPEP directs, all claim limitations must be considered in view of the cited prior art in order to establish a prima facie case of obviousness. See MPEP § 2143.03.(MPEPが示すように、一応の自明性を確立するためには、引用例に鑑みてクレームの全ての限定事項を考慮する必要がある。)

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Decision for Rejection

Q. We received a Decision for Rejection.  Are there any means to continue the prosecution of the present patent application?

A.  The Applicant can file a Notice of Appeal against the Decision for Rejection within three months (for Applicants residing in Japan) or four months (for foreign Applicants) from the dispatch date of the Decision.  Please see section “Appeal against the Decision for Rejection” for more details.

With respect to patent applications filed on or after April 1, 2007, a divisional application can be filed instead of  (or in addition to) filing a Notice of Appeal.  Please see section “Divisional Application” 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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