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Recent Trends in Business-related Inventions

July 2020
Patent Examination department (Electronic Technology),
Japan Patent Office

Contents

  1. Outline of Business-related invention
  2. Application Trends in Business-related invention
  3. Reference Information about Business-related invention

1. Outline of Business-related invention

1-1. What is Business-related invention?

  • Business-related invention* is an invention in which business method is realized using Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
  • The patent system aims to contribute to the development of industry through the protection of technology. Therefore, an idea of itself cannot be eligible subject matter, even if ground-breaking idea for sales management or production management.
  • On the other hand, an invention in which such idea is realized using ICT would be eligible subject matter as Business-related invention.
  • * Business-related invention refers to the patent application classified into G06Q as IPC or FI.

(figure) Business method ~ ICT ~ Business related ingentions

1-2. Business-related invention in Fourth Industrial Revolution

  • With the progress of new technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) or artificial intelligence (AI) promoting the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the utilization of Business-related invention is getting attention from the industry.
  • As an example of Business-related invention using IoT, consider a model consisting of the steps ① to ⑥ as follows; ① Collecting data from various sensors or devices, ② Transferring the collected data, ③ Storing the transferred data in the storage system as "Big Data", ④ Analyzing the stored data by using AI etc. and outputting new data, ⑤ Utilizing the output data to any service, ⑥ Establishing business model in IoT. In this model, the system embodying own company's business model can be protected as Business-related patents regarding ⑤ utilizing data and ⑥ establishing business model.

(figure) IoT Model

2. Application Trends in Business-related inventions

2-1. Overall Trends in Application and Examination

  • The number of domestic patent applications for Business-related invention has been characteristically transitioning (Graph 1). The downward trend after the application boom in 2000 turned to increase in around 2012 and 9,921 applications were filed in 2018.
  • This increase is assumed to be caused by the activation of R & D on the solution business following the industrial structure change from "products" to "services". Another reason is that new services using ICT has been created in new fields such as financial or healthcare, due to development in AI and IoT technologies in addition to the spread of smartphones and SNS to the public.
  • The grant rate of business-related inventions was initially sluggish, but is rising year by year (Graph 2). Nowadays, it has been steady in the 60% range, which is equal to other technical fields.

(Graph 1) The number of applications for Business-related invention
Graph 1 The number of applications for Business-related invention

(Graph 2) Grant rate for Business-related invention (for the applications of which main features are Business-related inventions)
Graph 2 Grant rate for Business-related invention
(for the applications of which main features are Business-related inventions)

Remarks

  • "Applications of which main features are business-related inventions " refers to an application classified into G06Q as main FI.
  • "Applications that are business-related inventions but have main features in other technical fields" refers to an application classified into G06Q as FI and also classified into other FIs as main FI.
  • The number of applications is the total number of (1) the number of domestic applications and (2) the number of international applications based on Patent Cooperation Treatment (PCT) and transferred into the national phase in Japan. The number includes undisclosed applications for which a decision of refusal, (deemed) withdrawal, or abandonment was made prior to publish.
  • The application date of PCT international applications is determined as the acceptance date of the domestic document.
  • Grant rate = number of decisions to grant a patent / (number of decisions to grant a patent + number of decisions of refusal + number of withdrawals or abandonment after FA)

2-2. Application Trends by Field

  • According to the number of business-related applications by field (Graph 3), the top three fields in 2018 are:
    • (1) Services in general (e.g. accommodation, restaurant, real estate, transportation and communication)
    • (2) Commerce (e.g. E-commerce, auction, market forecast and online advertisements)
    • (3) Administration; Management (e.g. in-house operation system, production management, inventory management, project management and staffing)
  • "Services in general" includes car sharing services and vacation rental businesses that have become popular in recent years, and is considered to reflect the diversification of services provided on smartphones and online.
  • The increasing number of applications for "Commerce" is considered to be due to the rise of e-commerce including flea market apps and online auctions, and the accompanying activation of marketing and advertising businesses.
  • "Administration; Management", of which typical example is an invention that utilizes AI to optimize in-house business systems and inventory management, has shown a particularly high growth rate since 2015.
  • "Finance" including FinTech and "Healthcare" are also large next to the top three fields and the number of their applications have been increasing. In recent years, services that users can feel free to receive via smartphones are increasing in finance field (e.g. smartphone payment and household account app) and healthcare field (e.g. health management and treatment app).
  • Although the number of applications related to primary and secondary industries is small, it has approximately doubled from 2013 to 2018 and it can be seen that problem solution using ICT has spread to a wide range of fields.

(Graph 3) The number of business-related applications by field
Graph 3 The number of business-related applications by field

Remarks

  • Graph 3 is made based on primary FI assigned to "Applications of which main features are Business-related inventions ".
  • Correspondence between fields and FI and the number of applications for each year are as follows (see J-PlatPat ( External link ) for details of classification).
Industry Field Corresponding FI 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Services in general G06Q50/,90/,99/ other than the following 1,089 1,286 1,223 1,084 1,411 1,477
Commerce G06Q30/ 1,161 1,258 1,150 1,282 1,365 1,578
Administration; Management G06Q10/ 441 576 592 986 1,289 1,578
Finance G06Q20/,40/ 519 583 542 769 834 1,092
Secondary Industry (Manufacturing, Construction) G06Q50/04,50/08 103 115 135 151 171 185
Energy industry (Electricity, gas or water supply) G06Q50/06 154 153 178 258 170 229
Primary Industry (Agriculture; Fishing; Mining) G06Q50/02 58 42 35 59 96 77
Education G06Q50/20 68 56 62 75 86 91
Government or public services G06Q50/26 63 59 101 92 81 102

2-3. AI-related Invention and Business-related invention

  • Business-related inventions are highly compatible with AI (especially machine learning technology that makes decisions by learning data), and there are increasing cases of solving business problems by using AI.
  • The number of applications for AI-related inventions in the top five fields mentioned above in business-related inventions has been increasing since 2015 (Graph 4). The prominent fields are "Administration; Management" and "Healthcare", which shows that a number of inventions realizing prediction, optimization, diagnosis, or detection of target by using AI are emerging.

(Graph 4) The number of applications for AI-related inventions by field
Graph 4 The number of applications for AI-related inventions by field

Remarks

Industry Field 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Administration; Management 15 6 17 55 90
Commerce 14 10 24 33 52
Services in general 16 11 13 28 33
Finance 0 3 9 18 24

2-4. Application Trends in Each Country

  • The number of applications for business-related inventions in each country is on the rise as a whole (Graph 5).
  • The number of applications in China is rapidly increasing, and it is 40,000 over in 2017.
  • The number of applications filed in the US has been on a downward trend since 2014, probably due to Alice decision* by Supreme Court in 2014, which made it difficult to obtain business-related patents in US.
  • The number of applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) is the lowest among the five major patent offices, probably due to strict judgment on inventive step for business-related inventions by the EPO.
  • * Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 134 S. Ct.2347 (2014).

(Graph 5) The number of applications for business-related inventions in each country
Graph 5 The number of applications for business-related inventions in each country

Remarks

  • Graph 5 is made based on the applications classified into IPC: G06Q, regardless of whether it is a major classification.
  • For Japan, China, and Korea, the number of applications includes utility models.
  • Graph 5 is made based on WIPO Patentscope ( External link ) (searched on June 5, 2020). As the searched databases are different, the number of JP applications does not match the number of domestic applications in Graph 1.
  • The number of applications in each country is as follows.
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
CN 4,568 5,912 8,652 11,119 16,959 28,922 40,458
US 11,766 15,207 17,722 18,793 16,878 15,905 15,921
KR 5,629 7,405 6,917 7,181 8,382 9,294 9,032
JP 4,556 5,610 6,093 6,431 6,139 7,084 7,811
EP 2,244 2,644 2,732 2,985 3,129 3,288 3,226
WO 3,409 4,655 4,792 5,044 6,036 6,449 6,735

3. Reference Information about Business-related invention

  1. Examination Handbook for Patent and Utility Model in Japan Annex B Chapter 1 Computer Software-Related Inventions (PDF : 2,131KB)
  2. Examination Guidelines pertinent to IoT related technologies
  3. Patent Examination Case Examples pertinent to AI-related technologies
  4. Recent Trends in AI-related Inventions
  5. Japanese Pages

[Last updated 27 July 2020]

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