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Home > FAQs > How to apply for a patent, a utility model, industrial design, trademark to the Japan Patent Office

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How to apply for a patent, a utility model, industrial design, trademark to the Japan Patent Office

 1-1. Should I search for prior art before applying for a Patent?

If you intend to file a patent application, you are advised to search for prior art relevant to your invention through a patent information database or have prior art searched by a patent information search company in your country before filing an application.

If your invention has lost its novelty (and is already publicly known) at the time of the filing of the application, you cannot obtain a patent for the invention (Article 29(1) of the Patent Act). Almost all inventions for which patent applications are filed with a patent office in the world are published in patent gazettes. A patent examiner searches those gazettes and other patent information when he/she performs the substantive examination for your patent application. If he/she finds another invention already published in those gazettes identical to your invention, your invention is determined to be a publicly-known art, and it is often the case that your patent application is refused by the examiner.

The Patent Act in English is available through the following URL.

http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?id=42&vm=04&re=01 (External link)

The Industrial Property Digital Library (IPDL) on the website of the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) is a database for patent information search free of charge.

http://www.ipdl.inpit.go.jp/homepg_e.ipdl (External link)

 1-2. How do I apply for a patent right if I am outside Japan? (or for a utility model, industrial design, or trademark right)

(i) First prepare the application forms

See FAQ 1-3: "How can I prepare application forms?"

(ii) Appoint a representative in Japan

See FAQ 1-4: "Do I need a patent attorney to apply for a patent from outside Japan? (or for a utility model, industrial design, or trademark)"

 1-3. How can I prepare application forms?

[for patents]

(i) Required documents

To apply for a patent, you have to submit an application form for a patent, along with a description, claims, drawings (if necessary), and an abstract.

The application form itself must be written in Japanese. Even your name and address should be transliterated into Japanese katakana characters. In principle, the description, claims, drawings (if necessary), and abstract also should be written in Japanese.

However, as long as the prescribed formal requirements have been met, you may initially submit the description, claims, drawings (if necessary), and an abstract in any language.

If you submit your description, claims, drawings and abstract in any language other than Japanese, you will need to submit the Japanese translations of those documents within one year and four months from the earlier of the following two dates: (1) the filing date or (2) the priority date (if applicable). If you do not submit the translations to our Office within the prescribed period, you will be notified of that effect and be able to submit them within two months from the date of the JPO’s mailing of the notice. If you do not submit translations to our Office within the two-month time, your patent application will be deemed to have been withdrawn*.

    *: Your patent application that has been deemed to have been withdrawn can be reinstated when you has a justifiable reason for not submitting the translations within the two-month period mentioned above, i.e. where the Patent Office finds that your failure to comply with the time limit occurred in spite of due care required by the circumstances having been taken. In other word, you can submit the translations within two months after the date on which the justifiable reason ceased to exist, as long as this is done within one year after the two-month period, mentioned in the above paragraph, expired. In doing so, you are required to submit also a document called Statement of Reasons for Restoration indicating the justifiable reason.

Meanwhile, the JPO accords as the filing date of your patent application the date on which the JPO receives your application form unless your application falls under the following circumstances:

  • When your patent application does not expressly contain an indication that you intend to obtain a patent;

  • When your patent application does not contain the information of your name as an applicant or when it does not contain indications allowing the JPO to identify the applicant;

  • When your patent application does not contain a part which on the face of it appears to be a description.

Moreover, when your patent application does not comply with the prescribed formal requirements, you will be invited to correct your patent application so that it meets the requirements within a specified period of time.

(ii) Carefully prepare specifications

The scope of a patent right is based on the description submitted to the JPO. Particularly, the technical scope of a patented invention shall be determined based upon the statements in the claims (Article 70(1), Patent Act). In addition to this, the meaning of each term used in the claims shall be interpreted based on the statements in the description and the drawings (Article 70(2), Patent Act). Therefore, you are advised to very carefully prepare your description and claims.

When you prepare a patent application for your invention, it will be helpful if you refer to Part I and Part II of the Examination Guidelines for Patents and Utility Models in Japan.

Please refer to the following link to view the Guidelines.

Examination Guidelines for Patents and Utility Models:

http://www.jpo.go.jp/tetuzuki_e/t_tokkyo_e/1312-002_e.htm

(iii) Focus on filing an application containing valuable claim(s)

You are advised to file an application focusing on claim(s) that are worthwhile in terms of technical aspects and marketability.

(iv) Appoint a representative (Patent Administrator)

If you do not have either a permanent address or residence in Japan (or an office, if the applicant is a legal entity), you can still file a patent application to the Japan Patent Office by yourself in order to establish the filing date.However, without having a permanent address or residence in Japan, after that you are required to appoint a representative who will need to conduct all other procedures, except for a few exceptions. The representative is referred to as a "Patent Administrator," who can be a patent attorney in Japan, for example. For more details, please see FAQ 1-4: " Should I appoint a patent attorney as my representative to apply for a patent, a utility model, industrial design, trademark to the Japan Patent Office from overseas?"

[for utility models]

(i) Required documents

To apply for a utility model registration, you have to submit an application for utility model registration, a description, scope of claims, abstract, and drawings (if necessary).

The application must be prepared in the prescribed manner as stipulated in the Utility Model Act and the relevant regulations. All required documents must be submitted in Japanese . Even your name and address should be transliterated in Japanese katakana characters.

(ii) Carefully prepare a specification

The scope of a utility model right is based on the description submitted to the JPO. Particularly, the technical scope of a registered utility model shall be determined based upon the statements in the claims. In addition to this, the meaning of each term used in the claims shall be interpreted based on the statements in the description and the drawings.

Therefore, you are advised to very carefully prepare your description and claims.

Notes: Article 70 of the Patent Act applies to registered utility models according to Article 26 of the Utility Model.

UtilityModelAct: http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?id=43&vm=04&re=02 (External link)

When you prepare a utility model application for your device, it is helpful if you refer to Part I, Part II, and Chapter 2 of Part X of the Examination Guidelines for Patents and Utility Models in Japan.

Please refer to the following link to view the Guidelines.

Examination Guidelines for Patent and Utility Model:

http://www.jpo.go.jp/tetuzuki_e/t_tokkyo_e/1312-002_e.htm

(iii) Appointment of a representative (Patent Administrator)

I If you do not have either a permanent address or residence in Japan (or office, if the applicant is a legal entity) you are required to appoint a representative, a "Patent Administrator," such as a patent attorney in Japan. For more details, please see FAQ 1-4: "Do I need a patent attorney to apply for a patent from outside Japan?"

[for industrial designs]

(i) Required documents

In order to register your industrial design in Japan, you are required to submit a prescribed application form together with drawings.

The application form must be prepared in the manner stipulated under the Design Act and the relevant regulations. In addition, all required documents must be submitted in the Japanese. Even your name and address should be transliterated in Japanese katakana characters.

(ii) To carefully prepare an application form and drawings

When applying to register a design, you are required to prepare a Request for Registration of a Design, along with drawings, in the prescribed manner. The key to appropriately preparing an application lies in how you prepare drawings.

(iii) Appointment of a representative (Patent Administrator)

If you do not have either a permanent address or residence in Japan (or office, if the applicant is a legal entity) you are required to appoint a representative, a "Patent Administrator," such as a patent attorney in Japan. For more details, please see FAQ 1-4: "Do I need a patent attorney to apply for a patent from outside Japan?"

[for trademarks]

(i) Required documents

In order to register your trademark in Japan, you are required to submit a prescribed application form.

The application form must be prepared in the manner stipulated under the Trademark Act and the relevant regulations. In addition, all required documents must be submitted in Japanese. Even your name and address should be transliterated in Japanese katakana characters.

(ii) Appointment of a representative (Patent Administrator)

If you do not have either a permanent address or residence in Japan (or office, if the applicant is a legal entity) you are required to appoint a representative, a "Patent Administrator," such as a patent attorney in Japan. For more details, please see FAQ 1-4: "Do I need a patent attorney to apply for a patent from outside Japan?"

 1-4. Should I appoint a patent attorney as my representative to apply for a patent, a utility model, industrial design, trademark to the Japan Patent Office from overseas?

If you have a permanent address or residence (office, if the applicant is a legal entity) in Japan, you do not have to appoint your attorney as your representative. However, it is strongly recommended that you appoint a patent attorney as your representative because a good command of Japanese and deep knowledge of the relevant laws and the procedures are necessary to file an application and complete the process successfully.

If you do not have a permanent address or residence (office, if the applicant is a legal entity) in Japan, a legal representative (such as a patent attorney) with a permanent address or residence in Japan must be appointed as a "Patent Administrator" (Article 8, Patent Act). Except for a few exceptions, all procedures must be conducted through your Patent Administrator*. The exceptions are filing the initial patent application and paying the annual patent fees for each year, starting with the fourth year, which must be paid by the end of the previous year. However, it is strongly recommended that you appoint a patent attorney as your representative because patent attorneys are extremely knowledgeable about patent laws and the necessary filing procedures to complete the process successfully.*

(Notes)

* : This requirement is not applicable to procedures for national entry of PCT international applications in Japan.

However, please note that you have to appoint your Patent Administrator within the prescribed period. Otherwise, your PCT international application will be deemed to have been withdrawn * in Japan (Article 184-11, Patent Act, see FAQ 10-1: "How can I have my PCT international application entered into the national phase in Japan?").

*A PCT international application deemed to have been withdrawn in Japan can be reinstated if you follow certain procedures and meet certain conditions.(see FAQ 10-1: "How can I have my PCT international application entered into the national phase in Japan?")

 1-5. Should I submit a power of attorney?

When the information concerning your representative is included in the application form, you do not have to submit a power of attorney. This is also applicable to a Patent Administrator. However, if you appoint a representative acting on behalf of you to proceed with our Office afterwards, you need to submit a power of attorney.

In addition, there are cases in which you have to submit a power of attorney; e.g. when you intend to withdraw your application or limit the scope of the authorization of the power of attorney.

 1-6. How can I get a list of patent attorneys in Japan?

All patent attorneys, who are acting in a professional capacity and on behalf of someone to conduct procedures with the JPO, have to belong to the Japan Patent Attorneys Association.

The JPAA can be helpful in finding a representative for you in Japan.

The Japan Patent Attorneys Association (Benrishi-kai)

Address: 3-4-2 Kasumigaseki,

Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-0013 JAPAN

Tel: +81-3-3581-1211

Fax: +81-3-3581-9188

E-mail: master@jpaa.or.jp

Web site: http://www.jpaa.or.jp/?cat=546 (External link)

 1-7. If I live in Japan, do I need to appoint a representative in order to apply for a patent? (or utility model, industrial design or trademark registration)

If you have either a permanent address or a residence (or office, if you are a legal entity) in Japan, you can file a patent application directly with our office, without appointing a representative.

If you are not familiar with the procedures, however, we recommend you appoint a patent attorney as your representative in Japan, in order to successfully complete the whole process.

All patent attorneys who engage in IP work are required to be a member of the Japan Patent Attorneys Association (JPAA). The JPAA can thus be very helpful for applicants who are considering appointing a patent attorney as their representative in Japan.

The Japan Patent Attorneys Association (Benrishi-kai)

Address: 3-4-2 Kasumigaseki,

Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-0013 JAPAN

Tel: +81-3-3581-1211

Fax: +81-3-3581-9188

E-mail: master@jpaa.or.jp

Web site: http://www.jpaa.or.jp/?cat=546 (External link)

 1-8. Can I file a patent application to the JPO in a language such as English, instead of in Japanese?

You can initially file the description, claims, drawings and abstract attached to your application form in any language. However, if you do so, you will need to submit Japanese translations of those documents within one year and four months from the earlier of the following two dates: (1) the filing date or (2) the priority date (if applicable).

For more details, please see FAQ 1-3 ([for patents]; (i) Required documents)

 1-9. How can I submit an application or other documents?

You can submit an application or other documents to our Office by:

(i) bringing them directly to the counter at our Office

(ii) mailing them to the following address;

Japan Patent Office

3-4-3, Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8915, Japan

(iii) online (Internet)

However, overseas residents cannot submit the documents directly to our Office by any means, including the above three ways without a representative in Japan.

Please note that the documents have to be submitted to our Office by a representative (e.g., patent attorney) in Japan (see FAQ 2-4: "Can I change the applicant in a pending application?").

 1-10. Is there any database that I can use to search for patents, utility models, industrial designs, or trademarks?

Yes, there is.

A retrieval service “IPDL” which is run by the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training(INPIT) provides databases of publications of patent, utility model, industrial design and trademark. And you can also see legal status of each application through this service.

If you had any questions on the usage of IPDL, please have a look at the “HELP” menu which is located at the top of screen for each database, or e-mail to the helpdesk.

Please access the IPDL with the following URL:http://www.ipdl.inpit.go.jp/homepg_e.ipdl (External link)

IPDL’s helpdesk e-mail address: helpdesk@ipdl.inpit.go.jp

 1-11. Who may be an applicant?

Eligibility is limited to:

(i) the inventor(s), deviser(s) or creator(s), or

(ii) person(s) who have succeeded the right to apply for a patent/utility model/design, or

(iii) person(s) who wish to register a trademark.

 1-12. Do I have to submit a power of attorney when I file a patent application?

You do not need to submit a signed power of attorney when applying for a patent.

On the other hand, a power of attorney is required, for example, when you abandon or withdraw a patent application. In that case, the JPO requires that the signatures of all applicants be on the power of attorney.

Do inventors/applicants have to sign any documents when filing?

Inventors are not required to sign any documents. However, when a representative conducts the filing procedures on behalf of any applicants, the signature of the representative or the identification label of the representative is required on the patent application form. The signatures of the inventers and applicants are not needed.

Note:

Please note that under Article 8 of the Patent Act, persons who don’t reside or who are not domiciled in Japan cannot conduct most procedures directly with the JPO and must appoint a representative (Patent Administrator) in Japan, except for a few exceptions, which are filing the initial patent application and paying the annual patent fee for each year, starting with the fourth year, which must be paid by the end of the previous year. However, these exceptions for patents do not apply to utility models, designs and trademarks. We highly recommend that you appoint a patent attorney as your Patent Administrator and consult with him or her about the procedures in detail.

See FAQ 1-6: "How can I get a list of patent attorneys in Japan?"

 1-13. What should I do to obtain a patent or register a utility model, an industrial design or a trademark/service mark?

1. You need to first file an application with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) to obtain a patent right or register a utility model, industrial design or trademark. The application must be prepared in the prescribed manner provided by the Patent Act, regulations, etc. In principle all required documents must be submitted in the Japanese language (see FAQ 1-3: " ([for patents]; (i) Required documents").

2. Submit a Request Form together with the following documents according to the kind of right desired:

Patents: A description, claims, an abstract, and, if necessary, drawing(s)

Utility models: A description, claims, an abstract, and drawing(s)

Designs: Drawing(s)

Trademarks: A trademark for which registration is sought

After an application is received by the JPO, a formality examination is performed to determine whether the prescribed formal requirements have been fulfilled.

An invitation to correct will be made where it does not meet the requirements; e.g., when the necessary documents are missing or the required pieces of information have not been properly filled out.

Then, an examiner performs a substantive examination to determine whether the application satisfies the requirements for the grant of a patent or the registration of an industrial design or a trademark.

Please note that a substantive examination for a patent application is carried out only when a "Request for Examination" is submitted to our Office within three years from the date of filing of the application (or international filing date for PCT international applications which have entered the national phase in Japan as a designated state).

If a "Request for Examination" is not made within the prescribed period, the patent application is deemed to have been withdrawn*.

*A patent application that has been deemed to have been withdrawn can be reinstated, by following the necessary procedures and meeting prescribed conditions.
(See FAQ 6-5: "Is it necessary for me to file a request for examination with the JPO after I have submitted my patent application?"

When the examiner decides that the application meets all of the requirements, a patent may be granted or an industrial design or a trademark may be registered in the Registry at the JPO with payment of the prescribed patent fees or registration fee.

Meanwhile, please also note that a utility model is registered without a substantive examination where it satisfies the prescribed formal requirements including payment of registration fees and the basic requirements.

As to the "basic requirement," please refer to the Part X: UTILITY MODEL, Chapter 2 Basic Requirements for Utility Model Registration of the Examination Guidelines for Patent and Utility Model in Japan at the following URL:

http://www.jpo.go.jp/tetuzuki_e/t_tokkyo_e/1312-002_e.htm

A patent right, an industrial design right or a trademark right comes into force when such a right is registered in the Registry at JPO.

Any invention, device, or creation is vulnerable if it is disclosed to others or brought into the market without a patent right, a utility model right or a design right.

Without such a right, action cannot be taken against others who use or imitate the invention/device/creation. Therefore, the protection of the right for an invention, device, or creation under the law begins with the filing of an application with the JPO. The same situation applies to a trademark.