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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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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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