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Quality Management on Patent Examination

Quality Policy on Patent Examination

To further enhance its patent examination quality, the JPO established its “Quality Policy on Patent Examination” (the “Quality Policy”), which outlines fundamental principles of the JPO’s quality management on patent examination. The JPO will continue to make every effort to sustain and enhance the quality of patent examination based on its Quality Policy, aiming to achieve patent examination that is the fastest and utmost quality in the world.

Quality Management Manual for Patent Examination

The JPO released its “Quality Management Manual for Patent Examination” (the “Quality Manual”).

In line with the fundamental principles stipulated in the Quality Policy, this Quality Manual outlines the quality management system that consists of quality management and its implementation system.

User Satisfaction Survey on Patent Examination Quality

The survey was started in order to gain an understanding on how patent examination quality should be evaluated, based on user satisfaction. The JPO conducts the survey and compiles a report on the results of the survey, for the purpose of reflecting the results in its initiatives for sustaining and enhancing patent examination quality, based on discovering areas of patent examination needing improvement.

Overview of Quality Management on Patent Examination

Quality management on patent examination under the fundamental principles outlined in the Quality Policy as stated above consists of two levels:

  • 1) The PDCA cycle for all Patent Examination Departments as a whole, which consists of the First to the Fourth Departments, and
  • 2) The PDCA cycle (lower-case letters in the figure) for each, individual examination division.

In addition, the JPO obtains objective feedback about its systems for, and its current state of quality management on patent examination from external experts. The details of the feedback are to be reflected into the PCDA cycles as improvements. To date, this type of initiative has not been undertaken by other patent offices.
The JPO is working on the following three pillars that involve initiatives dealing with quality management on patent examination;

  1. Quality Assurance
  2. Quality Verification
  3. External Evaluation on Quality Management

Main activities of the initiatives are shown below.

1. Quality Assurance
 (Initiative for sustaining and enhancing patent examination quality)

■Consultations - [do] under [DO]
Generally, patent examination is conducted by one examiner in charge. However, in order to make patent examination more prompt and accurate, an examiner in charge may consult with other examiners. Consultations enable examiners to integrate the information they know and share their expertise and knowledge on prior art searches. This ideally can lead to eliminating or at least minimizing potential discrepancies in prior art searches or judgments on patentability among examiners.

■Approvals - [check] under [DO]
Before notices drafted by examiners are sent to applicants/attorneys, they are subject to Quality Checks in terms of substantive/formal aspects by directors in charge of the concerned technical fields. By checking whether those notices conform to laws and regulations, and whether the reasoning and expressions used are appropriate, patent examinations conducted by examiners become more objective. In addition, approvals make it easier for applicants/attorneys to understand the examiners’ decisions and intentions.

2. Quality Verification
 (Initiative for understanding patent examination quality)

■Quality Audit - [CHECK]
Notices drafted by examiners are subject to random sampling for audit by Quality Management Officers after “checks” have been made by Directors (called “Approvals”) but before notices are sent to applicants/attorneys. Examination quality can be assessed through the judgments made by the Quality Management Officers on the validity of prior art searches and on the accuracy of reasoning. Moreover, by conducting these audits at the timing stated above, any issues and errors discovered during the audit can be remediated before notices are sent to applicants/attorneys.

Annual User Satisfaction Survey - [CHECK]
The JPO has conducted an Annual User Satisfaction Survey (“User” refers to applicants and other concerned persons) on (1) the overall quality in general of patent examination and (2) the quality of patent examination on a specific application. The survey results are comprehensively analyzed and then released. Through conducting the survey, it is anticipated that users’ needs or expectations can be more accurately understood and finally reflected into initiatives for enhancing the quality of patent examination.

3. External Evaluation on Quality Management

■Evaluations/Recommendations from the Subcommittee on Examination Quality Management
The JPO established a “Subcommittee on Examination Quality Management” in 2014, which consists of external experts such as business and academic experts, in order to obtain objective evaluations and recommendations on its systems for, and its current state of quality management on patent examination. Receiving objective feedback from such experts, and then reflecting this feedback into its quality management system, enables the JPO to develop its quality management system so as to achieve patent examination that is the utmost quality in the world.

[Last updated 30 May 2017]


Quality Management Office

Administrative Affairs Division

Patent and Design Examination Department

Japan Patent Office

TEL:+81-3-3581-1101 (ex. 3121)