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Policies concerning Business Method Patents (Outline)

November, 2000
Japanese Patent Office

With the recent dramatic developments related to the spread of information technology (IT), more and more patent applications for IT-related business methods are being filed.

So-called business method patents can have great influence on various industries, including those that have not widely utilized the patent system in the past. The Japanese Patent Office (JPO) therefore established and has been publishing policies concerning business method patents.(Click for the JPO's Policies concerning "Business Method Patents")

(a) Clarification of examination standards

  • (i)With the revision of examination standards for inventions involving computer software, description regarding business method related inventions is to be rewritten to include more specific descriptions. The revised examination standards (draft) have been available on the JPO Website since October 20, 2000 for the purpose of inviting comments from the public. After considering these comments, the revised examination standards that are formally adopted will be made open by the end of 2000 at the earliest.
  • (ii)Especially as regards examination standards, the criterion concerning inventive step --- one of the patentability requirements --- will be specifically and clearly described with examples. Note:An invention enabling receipt of orders via the Internet, for instance, which were taken by fax or telephone in the past, will not be regarded as having inventive step (For more detailed information, see the revised examination standards (draft) on the JPO Website).

(b) Collection of more wide-ranging data for business method

  • (i)Without well-maintained prior art information on business methods, applications that lack novelty and inventive step might be granted a patent right. We will, in this regard, improve our prior art information database. As part of our efforts towards this end, we will also call on various industries to provide us with necessary information.
  • (ii)The Trilateral Offices are now promoting mutual cooperation with the aim of improving the search environment for relevant precedents.

(c) User-friendly search system for application prior arts

(i)The JPO has recently established e-commerce and financial/securities business classifications which cover various business fields. We started assigning classes under these classifications. These systems are also expected to help applicants retrieve relevant prior arts more easily and search the novelty of their applications.

(d) Utilization of experts and development of examiners/appeal examiners

  • (i)For fields in which technical knowledge is limited, we will utilize and assign experts from outside organizations as advisors.
  • (ii)We will also develop examiners/appeal examiners to handle applications for business method patents.

(e) Efforts aimed at compatible practices among the Trilateral Offices

(i)The Trilateral Offices will cooperate towards decision making unity concerning patentability for the same invention. The Trilateral Offices conduct prior art search by already filed international applications as examples. Taking into consideration the comparison of research results, we will discuss methods to improve search functions for prior art retrieval.

(f) Information promulgation/explanation of business method patents

(i)The JPO will release information on business method patents on its Website, and hold seminars in Tokyo, Osaka, and Aichi in early November. We will also take other opportunities to explain examination standards as well as part of our information promulgation policy for business method patents.

Click for the JPO's Policies concerning "Business Method Patents"

[Last updated 30 November 2000]

Contact Us

Policy Planning and Research Office,

General Affairs Division

General Administration Department,

Japanese Patent Office

TEL:+81-3-3581-1101 ext.2111