purpose

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). 

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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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欧州:単一効特許制度

欧州における「統一特許」(Unitary Patent)の制度については、30年以上議論されておりましたが、2012年12月11日、ついに欧州連合(EU)は、「統一特許」(Unitary Patent)に関する一括法案の採択を決定しました。イタリアとスペインは、自国の言語での申請が認められないことを理由に反対しており、結局、当面はこの2国を除いた25カ国で発足することとなります。この25カ国には、EU加盟国以外、スイス、ノルウェー、トルコなどの非EU加盟国も含まれています*。 

現在の欧州特許条約(EPC)に基づく欧州出願においては、欧州特許庁(EPO)が出願審査を行い、EPOによる許可(特許査定)を得た後に、登録を希望するEPC加盟国への登録手続きを行うことにより、各国へ「枝分かれ」し、所謂「特許の束」(bundle of national patents)として存在することとなります。

統一特許制度発行後も、従来通り、審査は欧州特許庁が行いますが、特許許可後の手続きが統一化されます。統一化される手続きは、以下の通りです:

・ 各国への登録手続き: 現在は、登録を希望する国毎の手続きが必要で、請求項の翻訳文の提出が必要な国も有るが、この手続きを一本化する。欧州特許庁による許可の公告日から1ヶ月以内に単一特許を選択することができる。 

・ 維持年金の支払い: 現在は、各国で登録後は、国毎にまちまちの維持年金を支払う必要があるが、これを一本化する。具体的な金額は未定。

・ 係争の取扱い: 現在は、侵害訴訟や無効訴訟などは、各国の裁判所で取り扱われていたが、これらは一括して欧州統一特許裁判所の管轄となる。

差し当って、既存の欧州特許や係属中の欧州特許出願には影響ありません。統一特許制度に関する法案の採択は決定されましたが、具体的な発効時期は未だ不明です。加盟国の批准や必要な規則改正等が済んでいれば、2014年1月1日に発効となりますが、現実的には難しく、発効は2015年以降になることが見込まれています。


* 25カ国は以下の通り:オーストリア、ベルギー、ブルガリア、チェコ、キプロス、デンマーク、エストニア、フィンランド、フランス、ドイツ、ギリシャ、ハンガリー、アイルランド、ラトビア、リトアニア、ルクセンブルク、マルタ、オランダ、ポーランド、ポルトガル、ルーマニア、スロバキア、スロベニア、スウェーデン、及びイギリス。

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