Japan is one of the world’s most innovative and advanced countries. The economy of Japan is the third largest in the world by gross domestic product (GDP). The country is home to a strong research and development infrastructure and a vibrant startup ecosystem, making it an attractive destination for businesses looking to expand in Asia.
In 2021, Japan ranked fifth in the world for patent applications, with over 289 thousand filings. In this article, we will explore the process of patent registration in Japan and discuss the benefits of securing a patent in this dynamic market.
1. What is a patent for an invention in Japan?
If you have an invention and patent it in Japan, you will have the only right to make, use, and sell it for a while. The Japanese government gives this right to inventors or owners of inventions, and it covers many things like products, processes, and improvements. This system is run by the Patent Act in Japan.
To be eligible for a patent in Japan, an invention must meet certain criteria, including novelty, inventiveness, and industrial applicability. Getting a patent in Japan can be hard and take a lot of time, but it can help inventors protect their ideas and make money by selling them in Japan.
The period of a patent right is 20 years from the date of filing of the patent application. The period may be extended up to five years for pharmaceutical products and agricultural chemicals.
In Japan, you can protect inventions by registering them as “utility models”. To do this, the invention must be a device that has a specific shape or structure and can be used for practical purposes in industry. It also needs to have unique and creative ideas that follow natural laws and rules. The utility model protection lasts for 10 years starting from the date you apply. Read also about trademark registration in Japan.
2. What can and cannot be patented in Japan?
To obtain a patent for an invention in Japan, it must meet the following conditions:
- Industrial Applicability: The invention must have practical application in an industry.
- Novelty: The invention must not have been publicly known in Japan or any other country before the patent application is filed.
- Inventive Step: The invention must be a unique idea that is not obvious to someone with ordinary knowledge in the relevant field.
However, the following things will make an invention ineligible for patent protection:
- It is publicly known in Japan or another country before the patent application is filed.
- It is publicly known to be in use in Japan or another country before the patent application is filed.
- It is described in a publication or made available for public use over telecommunications lines in Japan or another country before the patent application is filed.
If you show your invention to people or sell it up to 12 months before you apply for a patent in Japan, it won’t affect your chances of getting a patent.
3. What documents are required to register a patent in Japan?
To apply for a patent in Japan, you have to submit:
- an application form for a patent,
- a description,
- drawings (if necessary),
- an abstract,
- certified copy of the priority document (submit within 16 months from the priority date),
- power of attorney (when applicable).
The applicants may be:
- the inventor(s) or creator(s);
- person(s) who have succeeded the right to apply for a patent/utility model/design.
The official language of the patent application is Japanese. The applicant must provide a translation within two months from the date of notice.
If the information about your representative is included in the application form, you do not have to submit a power of attorney. However, if you appoint a representative acting on your behalf to proceed with the Office afterwards, you need to submit a power of attorney.
4. Patent registration procedure in Japan
The process of patent registration in Japan includes a few steps: prior art search, application, examination, opposition, and granting.
Conducting a prior art search involves searching existing patents, patent applications, scientific literature, and other sources of information to determine whether the invention is novel and non-obvious. This search can be done by the inventor or a patent attorney. A thorough prior art search in relevant databases can help avoid the risk of the rejection of the application.
Once the prior art search is complete, the next step is to file a patent application with the Japan Patent Office (JPO). When you apply for a patent, you need to write a detailed explanation of your invention and what it does. You also need to include one or more statements that explain exactly what your invention covers. Drawings or other illustrations may also be included if necessary.
Next, the JPO will conduct a substantive examination to determine if the invention meets the patentability requirements, which are novelty, inventive step, and industrial applicability. During the examination process, the examiner may issue office actions requesting additional information or revisions to the application. The examination process can take several years, depending on the complexity of the invention and the backlog of pending applications.
Once the examination is complete, the JPO will publish the application in the Official Gazette for opposition purposes. This means that any interested party may file an opposition within six months of the publication. An opposition can be filed on several grounds, including lack of novelty, lack of inventive step, and lack of industrial applicability. If an opposition is filed, the JPO will conduct a hearing and issue a decision.
If there is no opposition, or if the opposition is unsuccessful, the JPO will grant the patent. The term of the patent in Japan is 20 years from the date of filing. Once the patent is granted, the inventor can use it to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention without their permission. The inventor can also license the patent to others for a fee, or sell it outright to another party. Read our patent registration guidelines to know more.
5. The cost of a patent registration in Japan
|Request for examination||¥138,000 + ¥4,000 per claim|
|1-3rd year||¥10,300 + ¥900 per claim (annually)|
|4-6th year||¥16,100 + ¥1,300 per claim (annually)|
|7-9th year||¥32,200 + ¥2,500 per claim (annually)|
|10-25th year||¥64,400 + ¥5,000 per claim (annually)|
The patent registration cost in Japan via the iPNOTE platform starts from as low as $1,260, which includes all government fees as well as document preparation. Find the best patent agent in Japan on iPNOTE.
6. Final thoughts
By securing a patent in Japan, businesses can gain a competitive edge and access a vast pool of consumers and investors. With the right legal guidance and support, entrepreneurs and innovators can navigate the patent registration process and position themselves for success in Japan’s thriving economy.
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