The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry promotes structural reform of the Japanese economy and encourages an environment that brings forth new industries. One of the important policies of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is the protection of intellectual property rights.
The Japan Patent Office examines patents, utility models, designs and trademarks. The Japan Patent Office is organized into the Administration Department, the Examination Department, and the Appeals Department. The Japan Patent Office grants intellectual property rights for patents, cooperates internationally with intellectual property offices, improves the intellectual property rights system and provides information relating to intellectual property rights. At the Examination Department, examiners with technical backgrounds carefully examine patent applications from a technical viewpoint and a legal viewpoint, to determine whether to grant patent rights for that application. The Appeals Department has the function of being the first to hear an objection to the results of an examination on behalf of the District Courts. They try cases according to procedures based on Civil Procedure Law.
Patent applications undergo the following examination. Initially, the examiner begins by attempting to understand the invention described in the application. The examiner will carefully read the specification to thoroughly understand the invention, and then will shift his or her focus to the claims to attempt to understand the invention as it is claimed. The examiner will then study the conditions for the uniqueness of the invention for approval of the invention (Article 37). At the same time, the specification and the scope of the claims are examined (Article 36) to determine inventions to be considered in an examination of the prior art.
The examiner will then study related prior art to determine the novelty, innovative step and priority of applications (Articles 29; Article 29, Paragraph 2; Article 39) for the application in relation to the claims under examination. Initially, the examiner will apply examination procedures to publications of prior art disclosed either by the applicant or those specified in examination reports that are prepared by an examination organization (including foreign patent offices). The examiner must study the novelty and innovativeness of the clamed invention based on the results of prior art examinations. If the examiner should uncover reason(s) for rejection, the applicant will be notified of those reasons. (Article 50)