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Searching for Patents, Utility Models, Designs, Trademarks

 5-1. 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 Japan Platform for Patent Information (J-PlatPat) on the website of the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) is a service to provide patent information for free of charge.

https://www.j-platpat.inpit.go.jp/ (External link)

 5-2. Is there any database that I can use to search for patents, utility models, designs, or trademarks?

Yes, there is. A search service “J-PlatPat” which is run by the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) provides databases of publications of patent, utility model, design and trademark. You can also see legal status of each application through this service.

If you have any questions on how to use the J-PlatPat, please click on the “Help list” which is located at the top of a page for each database to visit the Help Page, or e-mail to the Help desk at helpdesk@j-platpat.inpit.go.jp.

Please access the J-PlatPat at the following URL:

https://www.j-platpat.inpit.go.jp/ (External link)

The Top screen of J-PlatPat. You can find a Contact at the most upper part of the screen. In addition, you can select a Help List.

 5-3. Is it possible to know if my invention can be patented, before I file?

Examiners are the only ones who can determine whether your patent application can be patented. So unless your invention undergoes substantive examination, it will not be possible for you to know beforehand whether your patent application can be patented. (The same applies to registering industrial designs and trademarks.) In addition, the Japan Patent Office does not offer any advice or comments beforehand in regard to the possibility of inventions being patented or designs or trademarks being registered.

If you intend to file a patent application, we highly recommend you familiarize yourself with the filing procedures and with the J-PlatPat (Japan Platform for Patent Information) database to find out how to search for prior art relevant to your invention. It is also recommended that you consult search agencies in your country to gather information on prior art, before filing an application.

Please note that since it is not possible to obtain a patent for any invention that either has already been filed or has already become known to the public, it is important that you conduct a prior art search.

You can visit the J-PlatPat at the following URL:

https://www.j-platpat.inpit.go.jp/ (External link)

 5-4. Does the Japan Patent Office provide English translations of Japanese patents or utility models?

Yes, it does.

Machine translated publications are available in the Japan Platform for Patent Information (J-PlatPat) database free of charge. To access machine translated publications, please follow the instructions below.

【In the case of search by publication number】

1. Access the J-PlatPat main page by clicking on the following URL.

https://www.j-platpat.inpit.go.jp/(External link)

The Top screen of J-PlatPat.

2. Next, click on the “Patent/Utility Model Number Search/OPD” link.

The Top screen of J-PlatPat. When moving the cursor over “Patents/Utility Models” located at the upper part of the screen, “Patent/Utility Model Number Search/OPD” will be displayed to select.

3. To conduct a search, select ‘Number type’ from the pull-down menu and then enter document number you would like to search. If you have any questions on how to use this database, you can go to “Help list” to see an outline of the database.

Note: The covered range year of publications differs depending on the type of publication. Also, machine translated publications are available. In addition, the publications of granted patents and granted utility models are also included in this database.

The Search screen of J-PlatPat. You can search data by entering an application number, etc., to an appropriate column.

【In the case of search by keyword】

1. Access the J-PlatPat main page by clicking on the following URL.

https://www.j-platpat.inpit.go.jp/(External link)

The Top screen of J-PlatPat.

2. Next, click on the “Patent/Utility Model Search” link.

The Top screen of J-PlatPat. When moving the cursor over “Patents/Utility Models” located at the upper part of the screen, “Patent/Utility Model Search” will be displayed to select.

3. To conduct a search, select ‘Search item’ from the pull-down menu and then enter keyword you would like to search. If you have any questions on how to use this database, you can go to “Help list” to see an outline of the database.

Note: The covered range year of publications differs depending on the type of publication. Also, machine translated publications are available. In addition, the publications of granted patents and granted utility models are also included in this database.

The Search screen of J-PlatPat. You can search data by entering a Keyword.

 5-5. How can I find information on the legal status of patents?

Information on the legal status of patents is available on the J-PlatPat. You can search patent documents for information on the legal status.

Please refer to FAQ 5-4: "Does the Japan Patent Office provide English translations of Japanese patents or utility models?"

The following shows the search results in “Patent/Utility Model Number Search/OPD”. The button to find information on the legal status is located on the right of the screen “Details”.

The Search Result screen of J-PlatPat. When selecting “Details” out of “Option” , you can check a legal status

 5-6. How do I find cited documents on the J-PlatPat?

The J-PlatPat provides patent documents issued by the JPO. Please refer to the J-PlatPat help page for the year-by-year range of stored data by clicking on the following URL.

https://www.j-platpat.inpit.go.jp/html/c2000/index.html(External link)

You can also refer to FAQ 5-4: "Does the Japan Patent Office provide English translations of Japanese patents or utility models?"

If you have any difficulties in using the J-PlatPat, you can contact the J-PlatPat Help desk at the following e-mail address.helpdesk@j-platpat.inpit.go.jp