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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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審査通知に対する応答における発明の効果に関する主張について

意見書などで発明の効果を主張する場合に重要なことがあります。日本の審査では、明細書に記載されておらず、かつ、明細書又は図面の記載から当業者が推論できない効果については、意見書や実験証明書などで主張しても考慮されません(審査基準第II部 第2章 2.5、(3)、②参照)。具体的には、日本の審査基準には、以下のように述べられています。

「②意見書等で主張された効果の参酌

明細書に引用発明と比較した有利な効果が記載されているとき、及び引用発明と比較した有利な効果は明記されていないが明細書又は図面の記載から当業者がその引用発明と比較した有利な効果を推論できるときは、意見書等において主張・立証(例えば実験結果)された効果を参酌する。しかし、明細書に記載されてなく、かつ、明細書又は図面の記載から当業者が推論できない意見書等で主張・立証された効果は参酌すべきでない。」

それでは、意見書などで発明の効果を有効に主張する(審査官に斟酌される)ためには、発明の効果が明細書に少なくともどの程度記載されていることが必要なのでしょうか。

その判断基準の参考になる判例の1つが平成17年(行ケ)10389号 審決取消請求事件(解熱鎮痛消炎剤事件)です。この事件における本願発明は、エテンザミドとトラネキサム酸を含有する解熱鎮痛消炎剤です。この事件の重要争点が、明細書における発明の顕著な効果の記載の有無であり、出願人は、「エテンザミドとトラネキサム酸との併用による顕著な効果は当初明細書に記載されている」という旨を主張しましたが、審決取り消し訴訟においてもその主張は認められませんでした。つまり、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おらず、また、明細書の記載から読み取る(推論する)ことも出来きない」という判断がなされたものです。この事件の判決では、本願明細書の記載を引用しつつ、上記争点について以下のように述べています(該判決の第4(「当裁判所の判断」)、3、(3)参照)。

「(3) もっとも,本願明細書には,上記のように,『本発明に用いられるサリチル酸系抗炎症剤としては・・・エテンザミドが特に好ましい。』(段落【0005】)との記載があり,さらに,『【0015】表1より,エテンザミド50mg/kg及びトラネキサム酸200mg/kg単独での抑制率は,それぞれ10%及び14%であり,両薬剤とも軽度の抑制作用が認められた。一方,両薬剤を併用投与した場合の抑制率は56%であり,対照群との間に有意差が認められた。また,この作用をバルジの方法にて検討したところ,併用投与群の相対指数(0.44)は,各単独投与群の相対指数の積(0.77)よりも小さく,併用による相乗効果が認められた。【0016】表2より,エテンザミド100mg/kgおよびトラネキサム酸50mg/kgを併用した場合の抑制率は42%であり,対照群との間に有意差が認められた。また,この作用をバルジの方法にて検討したところ,併用投与群の相対指数(0.58)は,各単独投与群の相対指数の積(0.83)よりも小さく,併用による相乗効果が認められた。』との記載がある。
しかし,本願明細書には,エテンザミド以外のサリチル酸系抗炎症剤にトラネキサム酸を配合した例の記載がなく,エテンザミドを採用することが,それ以外のサリチル酸系抗炎症剤を採用することと比較して,格別に顕著な効果を奏するものであることをうかがわせるような記載もない。そうであれば,本願明細書の段落【0005】,【0015】及び【0016】に上記のような記載があるだけでは,エテンザミドを特定した本願発明が,それ以外のサリチル酸系抗炎症剤を採用する態様に比較して,格別に顕著な効果を奏すると認めることはできない。」
(下線は加えました)

上記判決から明らかなように、明細書において発明の効果が「僅かなりとも」記載されているような程度では足りず、本発明の効果をかなり明確に記載しておく必要があります(なるべく比較実験データを記載しておくことが望ましい)。

米国においては、当初明細書に記載のない新たな効果を主張することについては特に制限がなく、有効に主張できます(In re Chu, 66 F.3d 292, 299, 36 USPQ2d 1089, 1094-95 (Fed. Cir. 1995)、MPEP 2145)。(ただし、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ので要注意です。)

EPOにおいては、当初明細書に記載のない新たな効果については、「当初明細書に示唆される技術的課題に含意される(implied by)効果または該技術的課題と関連する(related to)効果」であると当業者が認識する効果であれば、基本的には有効に主張できます(EPOの審査基準のC_IV_11.5.2参照)。

一方、上記判例と対照的な内容の判例を以下に挙げます。「実施例の後出し」が認められた判決として良く話題に上る平成21年(行ケ)第10238号 審決取消請求事件(日焼け止め剤組成物事件)の判決においては、正確にいえば、出願後に出願人が実験証明書で示した効果について、「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(推論する)ことが出来る」という判断がなされたものです。上記の平成17年(行ケ)10389号 審決取消請求事件(解熱鎮痛消炎剤事件)の上記引用判決文との対比のために、参考までに、平成21年(行ケ)第10238号 審決取消請求事件(日焼け止め剤組成物事件)の判決文の要所を下記に引用いたします。

「当初明細書に,『発明の効果』に関し,何らの記載がない場合はさておき,当業者において「発明の効果」を認識できる程度の記載がある場合やこれを推論できる記載がある場合には,記載の範囲を超えない限り,出願の後に補充した実験結果等を参酌することは許されるというべきであり...」(該判決の第4(「当裁判所の判断」)、1、(1)の最終段落を参照)

「前記のとおり,本願当初明細書には,『現在,驚くべきことに,本組成物が優れた安定性(特に光安定性),有効性,及び紫外線防止効果(UVA及びUVBのいずれの防止作用を含めて)を,・・・提供することが見出されている。』(甲3,段落【0011】),『好ましい有機性日焼け止め剤活性種は2-フェニル-ベンズイミダゾール-5-スルホン酸である』(甲3,段落【0025】)と記載されているから,当業者は,UVBフィルターとして『2-フェニル-ベンズイミダゾール-5-スルホン酸』を含み,他の特定成分と組み合わせた本願発明の組成物が優れた紫外線防止効果を有することを理解し,各組成成分の和を超えた相乗効果をも奏し得るであろうことを理解することができるといえる」 (該判決の第4(「当裁判所の判断」)、2、(4)、エの第2段落を参照)

平成17年(行ケ)第10389号 審決取消請求事件(解熱鎮痛消炎剤事件)の判決文と、平成21年(行ケ)第10238号 審決取消請求事件(日焼け止め剤組成物事件)の判決文とを比較・検討することにより、明細書において本発明の効果について最低限どれくらい明確に記載しておく必要があるのかについてのおおよその目安が得られるのではないかと考えます。

なお、上記平成21年(行ケ)第10238号 審決取消請求事件(日焼け止め剤組成物事件)の判決では、「明細書に『発明の効果」について何らの記載がない場合に出願後に実験結果等を提出して効果を主張又は立証することが許されるべきではない」ことの理由に関する理論的考察が述べられています(該判決の第4(「当裁判所の判断」)、1、(1)参照)。日本の審査基準における「意見書等で主張された効果の参酌」の説明の趣旨を理解するうえで参考になりますので、その要点を以下に示します:

「本願当初明細書に記載されていない効果について出願後に実験結果等を提出して効果を主張又は立証することは、先願主義を採用し、発明の開示の代償として特許権(独占権)を付与するという特許制度の趣旨に反する」、

「進歩性の判断に重要な解決課題及び解決手段が提示されているか否かは、『発明の効果』がどのようなものであるかと不即不離の関係があり、したがって、本願当初明細書に記載されていない効果について出願の後に補充した実験結果等を参酌することは、出願人と第三者との公平を害する結果となる」、

「ただし、本願当初明細書に記載されていない効果について出願後に実験結果等を提出して効果を主張又は立証することが許されるべきではないのは、出願人と第三者との公平の要請に基づくものなので、当初明細書に、当業者において『発明の効果』を認識できる程度の記載がある場合やこれを推論できる記載がある場合には、出願の後に補充した実験結果等を参酌することは許されるというべきであり、許されるか否かは、前記公平の観点に立って判断すべきである」

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Design Registration

Q1. If a design 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 design applications in Japan claiming Convention priority, the priority period is for six (6) months, instead of one year, from the filing of the priority application.  Even if you have a design "patent" application filed at the USPTO, the priority period is 6 months for filing a Japanese patent application with a valid priority claim based on the degisn "patent" application filed in the US.  

You also have to be careful when filing a patent application in Japan claiming priority from both a patent application and a design application.  That is, for example, if you filed in your country a patent application on May 1, 2012 and a design application on October 30, 2012 and are now considering filing a patent application on May 1, 2013 in Japan claiming priority from both of the above-mentioned patent application and design application filed in your country, this date “May 1, 2013” is within one-year priority period based on the patent application but is after the expiration of six-month priority period (October 30, 2012 + 6 months = April 40, 2013) based on the design application.  Therefore, the priority claim based on the design application is not valid.  

Q2. I am planning to file a design patent application in Japan claiming priority from a US design patent application.  What are the major differences in practice between the United States and Japan that require particular attention?

A2.  Firstly, unlike the “design patent” in the United States which is one type of patents and is basically dealt with under the patent law, Japan has a design law separate from a patent law. 

Therefore, in Japan, an application for registration of a design is referred to as “design application”, not “design patent application” as in the United States.  

More importantly, this difference in legal system leads to some significant differences in design registration practice between the US and Japan representative examples of which are enumerated below.

Difference 1)  “Single design per application” system in Japan

It is understood that the US system allows an applicant to pursue two or more designs (embodiments) of a single inventive concept in a single design patent application.  This, however, is not the case in Japan.  According to the Japanese practice, each design application may include only a single design of single shape.

Therefore, in Japan, when a single priority application includes multiple designs, it is necessary to either:

-  file separate design applications with respect to the different designs, or

-  file an application including different designs and later file a divisional application(s).

In this connection, however, it should be noted that it is not allowed to file a divisional application on a “partial” design from a “whole” design application and vice versa.  Concerning the “partial” and “whole” designs, explanations are made below.

Further, there is an exception to the "single design per application" system, and the Japan's Design Law provides "related design" system for covering a plurality of similar designs.

1-1) Exception to the “single design per application” rule

The Japan’s Design Law exceptionally allows for discrete objects to be claimed in a single application if common sense indicates that such discrete objects are usually sold as a “set”, as in the case of, for example, a 3-piece set including a knife, fork and spoon. 

1-2) Related design applications

In the case where the priority US application contains a plurality of different but similar designs (e.g., minor variations of a certain design), such similar designs may be covered by utilizing the related design system in Japan.  Specifically, the similar designs can be covered by filing a principal design application and filing a related design application(s) by one day prior to the publication of the principal design. 

The design registered as the related design can be enforced independently of the registered principal design and other registered related design(s).  That is, a related design right can cover even a design similar to that related design, which, however, is not similar to the principal design. 

For covering such similar designs under the related design regime, it is possible to either:

-  file a principal design application and also file a related design application(s) simultaneously with the principal application or later (by one day prior to the publication of the principal design at the latest), or

-  file general design applications on the similar designs, and later amend the general applications into a principal design application and a related design application(s).

The JPO may find that the designs are not similar enough to be eligible for registration under the related design regime but there is no need to be so nervous about this point.  If the JPO denies the similarity, the JPO will issue an office action requesting the applicant to stop relying on the related design system and change the applications to normal applications.

 

Finally, the right of a registered related design is independent from the right of a registered principal design but there are the following exceptions.

1.   Synchronized protection term: 

The protection term for both of a registered principal design and a registered related design is 20 years from the registration date of the principal design.  This point, however, is substantially immaterial in the present case because the two applications will probably be registered almost simultaneously.  Further, the registered related design can be maintained even if the principal design is allowed to lapse due to non-payment of maintenance fee, and vice versa.   

 2.   Restriction of transfer of rights and licensing: 

The right of a registered related design cannot be transferred or licensed independently from the registered principal design.  That is, for transfer of design rights to a third party by assignment etc., the principal and related designs must be simultaneously transferred together to the same entity.  Further, also for licensing, the principal and related designs must be licensed simultaneously to the same entity.

 

Difference 2)  Partial Design System

The Japan’s Design Law has a “partial design system” which allows registration of parts of shapes or forms with distinct characteristics.  

The US system also provides a similar practice where dotted lines can be used to indicate non-claimed parts.  There is, however, one important difference.  That is, the Japan’s system requires that a partial design application should be filed with a clear indication that the application claims a partial design.  In the absence of such indication, the application will be recognized as claiming a whole design. 

Once filed with the indication of a partial design application, it is in principle not allowed to amend the application into a whole design application and vice versa.  Similarly, a divisional application on a partial design cannot be filed from a whole design application and vice versa. 

Therefore, if it is important to cover both of whole and partial designs, it is recommended to file both a whole design application and a partial design application.

 

Of course, there are many other differences between US and Japanese practices; however, the above differences are believed to be the main differences which require particular attention when filing a design application in Japan claiminig priority from a US design patent application.

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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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