Japan Business Method Patent

Japan Business Method Patent

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Japan Business Method Patent

In Japan, business methods are accepted as patentable subject matter. The legal standard used to assess whether a business method is patentable requires that inventions be “a highly advanced creation of technical ideas by which a law of nature is utilized.
The recent rapid development and diffusion of information technology (IT) are dramatically changing not only the methods to process enterprises’ internal tasks, but also modes of trading and even the businesses themselves. Because of this, the number of Japan business-method patent applications for IT-applied business methods has been increasing.
The Japanese Patent Office (JPO) has been making use of various opportunities in the effort to disseminate information about the criteria under which Japan business-method patent can be approved as part of software-related patents for the filing trend of Japan business-method patent applications). However, in revising the examination standards for inventions involving computer software, the JPO decided to formulate and publish comprehensive policies on Japan business-method patent in order to provide more precise information to industries and applicants. The JPO intends to continue its efforts to offer appropriate protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in this field under closer cooperation with overseas national patent offices.
Aiming to upgrade the JPO’s ability to examine Japan business-method patent applications, it will actively utilize experts from outside organizations for areas in which the JPO has yet to acquire sufficient technical knowledge. Prior art searches for Japan business-method patent inventions are not easy due to the broadness of the fields of such inventions which include: e-commerce, money/insurance, financial affairs, payment/settlement, as well as various administrative operations. JPO establishes a new classification system that subdivides the International Patent Classification (IPC) from these diverse viewpoints and sequentially classify relevant Japan business-method patent applications under this classification. This is done in order to improve the features of prior art searches to allow applicants quickly check the novelty of their Japan business-method patent applications.
There have been increasing calls for clarification of examination standards and international harmonization of practices regarding Japan business-method patent. International discussions on Japan business-method patent were also encouraged in the previous Kyushu-Okinawa Summit and Financial Ministers’ Meeting.
Under the proposal by the JPO, the Trilateral Offices conducted an international comparison of the judgment of patentability, etc. by using hypothetical applications in the Trilateral Technical Meeting held in June of this year. As a result, it has become clear that, despite the differences in each office’s system, the offices are highly likely to make the same judgment on whether or not Japan business-method patent application should be patented. The offices also confirmed items including that mere automation of a business process that had been known as a manual process, by way of using a well-known method is not considered patentable.