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English

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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進歩性の拒絶への対応(Part 2)

想定外の理由に基づいて進歩性を否定された場合:

前回の「想定内の拒絶を受けた場合」では、出願明細書中の記載に基づく議論のみで対応可能な場合についてお話いたしましたが、今回は新たな検討を要する内容の拒絶を受けた場合について説明いたします。 そのような場合の典型的な対応は以下の通りです。

(A)審査対象出願の発明や先行技術の開示内容に関する審査官の誤認・誤解を明らかにする。
(B)先行技術を組み合わせることの困難性[例えば、阻害要因(teach away)の存在]を明らかにする。
(C)予想外の優れた効果を明らかにする。
(D)後知恵(hind-sight)や商業的成功(Commercial Success)を主張する。
(E)先行技術に教示・示唆されていない特徴をクレームに追加して、更にその特徴による予想外の優れた効果を明らかにする。

具体的な対応の例を以下に挙げます。

(A)審査官の誤認・誤解

審査官が、審査対象出願の発明や先行技術の開示内容を誤解して、拒絶理由通知を出してくることは少なくありません。(特に米国の場合に多いという印象があります。)

その様な場合においても、ただ審査官の誤解を責めることを考えるのではなく、何故そのような誤解が生じたのかを謙虚に検討してみることが望ましい結果につながることが多いです。具体的には、以下のような手段が考えられます。

補正

審査官の誤解の理由を検討し、許容範囲内で、誤解の原因を排除し、発明をより明確に定義できる補正が可能であるならば、そのような補正を行うことが望ましいです。

仮に審査官の誤解が明らかであっても、何らかの補正を行った方が、権利化がスムーズになります。但し、補正によるエストッペル(禁反言)が生じないか慎重に検討する必要があります。例えば、特許性を明らかにするために必要な補正(例えば、先行技術に対する新規性・進歩性を明らかにするために行われた補正)であったと判断された場合、その補正によってクレームの範囲外となった部分については、出願人により放棄されたものとみなされ、均等論に基づく権利主張が出来なくなる場合があります。

審査官との面談

どうしても、審査官がどのような理解に基づいて拒絶しているのか分からない場合が有ります。そのような場合には、可能であれば、審査官との電話インタビューなどにより審査官の意図を確認してから具体的な対応を検討することが望ましいです。特に米国出願の場合、審査官との電話インタビューを行って審査官の真意を確認するということをよく行います。

(B)組み合わせの困難性:「阻害要因」ないし「阻害事由」

審査官に引かれた複数の先行技術を組み合わせることの困難性を示すための手段は幾つかありますが、その代表的例として、組み合わせに対する「阻害要因」(「阻害事由」)の存在を指摘することが挙げられます。この「阻害要因」とは、英語では"teach-away"や"negative teaching"などと称され、先行技術文献中に見出される教示であって、当業者が先行技術文献を改変(modify)して審査対象の発明に到達することを妨げる(prevent又はdiscourage)ような教示のことを意味します。

例えば、審査の対象となっている発明Xが、主成分(a)と補助成分(b)とからなる医薬品に関するものであり、この発明Xが、成分(a)を開示する先行技術文献Yと成分(b)を開示する先行技術文献Zとの組み合わせにより容易と認定された場合を想定します。この場合に、例えば、文献Yと文献Zのいずれかに成分(a)と成分(b)を組み合わせると毒性を発揮するというようなことを示唆する記載があれば、「阻害要因」があったと認められ、進歩性(非自明性)が認められることになります。

(C)予想外の優れた効果

効果の立証:

上記したような発明Xの場合に、阻害要因はないとしても、成分(a)と成分(b)とを組み合わせることによって特段のメリットが得られることが教示も示唆もされていなかった場合、成分Aと成分Bとの組み合わせによって、非常に優れた効果が得られるということを明細書の実施例・比較例に参照して説明する、若しくは追加実験によって証明することによって進歩性(非自明性)を立証することが出来ます。

米国における宣誓供述書:

米国であれば、上記のような追加実験を37 C.F.R. § 1.132に基づく宣誓書(affidavit)又は宣言書(declaration)(以下、纏めて「宣誓供述書」)として提出します。また、上記したように出願明細書に記載されている実施例のデータに基づいて非自明性を主張するような場合においても、実施例のデータに基づく考察(observation)を宣誓供述書の形として提出することが有効です。即ち、明細書に既に記載されている事項であっても、署名者が内容の信憑性に関して宣誓した宣誓供述書の形式で提出すれば、単に意見書中で実施例に参照して議論する場合と異なり、学術論文などの公知文献や専門家の見解書と同等の証拠として扱われます。

宣誓者は、発明者本人であってもそれ以外の第三者であってもよく、発明者本人による宣誓供述書であっても審査官はこれを軽んじてはならない旨がMPEP(MPEP§716.01(c)III)に規定されていますが、通常、やはり第三者によるものの方が説得力が高いと見なされます。

37 C.F.R. § 1.132の宣誓供述書で証明が可能な事項について、MPEP §716.01(a)は、以下のような事項を例示しております:

(1)発明を構成するパラメーターなどの臨界性(criticality)

(2)発明による予想外の効果(unexpected results)

(3)商業的成功(commercial success)

(4)長きに亘り未解決であった課題(long-felt but unsolved needs)

(5)他者による失敗(failure of others)

(6)専門家により提示された疑念(skepticism of experts)(「こんな発明がうまくいくはずない」というようなことを示唆する専門家の見解)

37 C.F.R. § 1.132の宣誓供述書の詳細については、以下をご参考下さい:
MPEP §716.01(a)MPEP§716.01(c)

また、宣誓供述書については、こちら にもより具体的な説明と、弊所で作成した宣誓供述書のサンプルを幾つか掲載しておりますので、参考までにご覧下さい。

実験報告書についての注意点:

(i)実施例の後出し:

上記の効果が出願当時の明細書に全く教示も示唆もされていない効果について、出願後に追加実験において初めてその効果を主張するようことは、日本を含む多くの国(米国を除く)では認められません。そのような主張を認めてしまうと、実際には出願当時には有用性が確認されていないかった発明について、特許を認めてしまうことになるからです。

尚、平成21年(行ケ)第10238号審決取消請求事件の知財高裁判決(日焼け止め剤組成物事件)が、実施例の後出しが認められた判決として良く話題に上りますが、出願当時の明細書に何ら教示も示唆もされていない効果について、出願後に実験証明しても認められると判示している訳ではありません。この件では、出願後に出願人が実験証明した効果について、出願当時の明細書に明記はされていないが、明細書の記載から読み取ることは出来るという判断で認められたものです。

この件は、効果が出願当時の明細書から読み取れるかグレーなところはありますが、明細書に全く示唆もされていない効果について実施例の後出しを許可するということを判示しているわけで無いということに注意が必要です。

一方、米国の場合には、明細書に教示も示唆もされていない効果について実験データの後出しが認められています(In re Chu, 66 F.3d 292, 299, 36 USPQ2d 1089, 1094-95 (Fed. Cir. 1995)、MPEP 2145)。これは、審査官からどのような拒絶理由を受けるか予見することは出来ないのであるから、出願明細書に記載がない効果についても、拒絶に対して、そのような効果について主張することは許されるべきという考え方に基づくようです。

そのような議論や実験データを提出する場合には、37 C.F.R. § 1.132に基づく宣誓供述書の形式で提出しないと考慮されない可能性が高いです。

(ii)実験内容の適性:

特に外国出願に対する拒絶の対応において、実験報告書の原案を発明者が作成し、それを実質的にそのまま翻訳して提出してしまうということが実務上よく行われています。そして発明者の方は、技術のプロではありますが特許のプロではないために的を得ない内容の宣誓供述書になってしまっているというケースを目にすることがあります。

その場合、いかに審査官が供述内容を真摯に検討しようとも、拒絶の撤回の根拠とはならないという状況に陥ってしまいます。

宣誓供述書の内容については、案件を良く理解した代理人と綿密に相談して上で決定することをお勧め致します。

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宣誓供述書の書き方について(2):米国(Part 2)

[例2] この例においては、[例1]のように宣誓供述書の供述内容を別紙のExhibit(甲号証又は乙号証)とはしていません。また、発明者以外によって署名された例です。

内容としては、医療装置(変形爪の矯正装置)に関する二次的考慮事項(商業的成功など)に関して提出したものです。(米国出願の中間処理において弊所が実際に提出したものに基づいていますが、固有名詞・用語・数値などは適宜変更してあります。)

(商業的成功に関する宣誓供述書の書式の1例)

IN THE U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE

Applicant:Taro YAMADA
Serial No.:XX/XXX,XXX
Filed:XXXX, 20XX
For:APPARATUS FOR CORRECTING AN INGROWN NAIL
Art Unit:3772
Examiner:Dan HICKS

 



DECLARATION UNDER 37 C.F.R. 1.132

 

    I, Goro Kimura, a Japanese citizen residing at XXXX, Tokyo, Japan, declare and say: 
    I was graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, XXX University in March 2005.
    In April 2005, I entered XYZ Clinic where I have been practicing the treatment of hallux valgus and ingrown nails.
    I am well familiar with the present case.
    I read and understood the Office Action dated XXXX, 2011 and references cited therein. I have carried out treatments of ingrown nails with the apparatus disclosed in claim 1 of the present application at XYZ Clinic following the instructions given by Mr. Taro Yamada who is the director of the clinic and is the inventor of the present application. Some of the results of the treatments are as reported in the website of XYZ Clinic at http://www.adcdefg-hijk.com.
    In the website, three cases of treatments are reported.  The treatments were performed using an apparatus as shown in Fig. A attached hereto.  As can be seen from Fig. A, the apparatus falls within the scope of claim 1 of the present application.
    As to the three cases (cases 1 to 3), the nails before and after the treatments are shown in Figs. B, C and D attached hereto, which are also shown at the above-mentioned website of XYZ Clinic.  In each of the tree treatments, the apparatus as shown in Fig. A was used as mentioned above.  Further, the reagents and operations in cases 1 to 3 were substantially the same as recited in Example 1 of the present application (paragraphs [00XX] to [00XX] of the specification of the present application) except that the inclination angle A of the lifting members, the lifting intervals and the nail correcting force were slightly varied depending on the characteristics of the ingrown nails of the patients.  As reported in the website of XYZ Clinic, the details of cases 1 to 3 are as follows.

Case 1:
Patient's gender and age:
    A female in her 30's.

Patient's background: 
    The patient wished to avoid a painful treatment because she had heard her acquaintance's report about having received a very painful operation for correcting an ingrown nail at another hospital which seemed to have been carried out without anesthesia.  The patient came to XYZ Clinic because she was attracted by the painless treatment of this clinic.

Results:
    The ingrown nail was corrected as shown in Fig. B by a single treatment which took about only 30 minutes.  The patient was satisfied with the results of the treatment because the ingrown nail had been corrected without feeling any pain during and after the treatment.

Case 2:
Patient's gender and age:
 
    A female in her 40's.

Patient's background: 
    The patient had a previous experience of nail-correction using a wire device which is to be hooked to the edges of the ingrown sides of the nail and is designed to lift the ingrown sides by pulling the hooked portions of the wire toward the center of the nail.
    However, she needed to go to the hospital so frequently that it became troublesome to her. As a result, the patient stopped going to the hospital before the completion of the nail correction.
    The patient also had a previous experience of nail-correction using a correction plate which is to be adhered on the surface of an ingrown nail and lifts the ingrown sides of the nail by the spring force of the plate, but the plate came off from the nail soon.

Results: 
    The ingrown nail was corrected as shown in Fig. C by performing twice an approx. 30-minute treatment, and the patient was pleased with the result.

Case 3:
Patient's gender and age: 
    A female in her 50's.

Patient's background: 
    Previously, the patient had her ingrown nail corrected by treatment using a wire device similar to that used by the patient of case 2, which treatment lasted about 18 months. However, the ingrown nail recurred after the termination of the treatment.

Results: 
    The ingrown nail was corrected as shown in Fig. D by a single approx. 30-minute treatment.  During and after the treatment, the patient did not feel any pain nor uncomfortable feeling.

    Finally, it should be added that almost all of the 900 patients having received this treatment so far were very satisfied with the results.

    From the above, it is apparent that the apparatus of the present invention surely enables the correction of an ingrown nail within a very short period of time, 1.e., within about 30 minutes to about 1 hour, with a very simple operation and without causing any pain nor uncomfortable feeling to the patent.
    Thus, the apparatus of the present invention has realized a surprisingly easy and effective treatment which is far more advantageous than the conventional surgical removal method which is complicated, cumbersome and is accompanied by pain during or after the surgery and risk of microbial infection, and the conventional treatments using various correction devices or apparatuses which are in many cases not so effective and require very long treatment periods.

    The undersigned petitioner declares that all statements made herein of his own knowledge are true and that all statements made on information and belief are believed to be true; and further that these statements were made with the knowledge that willful false statements and the like so made are punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, under Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code and that such willful false statements may jeopardize the validity of the application or any patent issuing thereon.

Date:

(宣誓者の署名)
Goro Kimura

タグ:

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《会社案内》

(和英)

原文:

現在は、長年蓄積した経験と高度な技術によって広く全国のお客さまからパートナーに選ばれ、「信頼できる分析サービス会社」という声価をかち得ています。・・・・・価値ある有用な情報を創造し、ご提供する我が社は、進化するお客様のニーズにお答えするためさらにパートナーとして信頼される努力を続けてまいります。

英訳文:

Due to our long and extensive experience and high-level expertise, we have been chosen as a partner by customers throughout Japan, and won a reputation as a “reliable analytical services company”.・・・・・We are committed to create and provide valuable and useful information,and will continue every effort to satisfy the changing customers’ needs and remain to be trusted as a their partner.

原文:

つねに最新鋭の機器と優れた人材・技術をいかし「迅速に・正確に・確実に」業務を実行すると共に、機密の保持に万全の注意を払っていることは申すまでもありません。

 英訳文:

We, as a matter of course, always take advantage of the state-of-the-art instruments and the excellent human resources and techniques in carrying out given tasks “quickly, precisely and surely” and that with extreme care to secure confidentiality of information.

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). 

タグ:

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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.


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