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  • Japan Patent Office Asia-Pacific Industrial Property Center, JIII

    Prosecution through Office Action

    of Patent Applications

    - Application Procedures -

    ©2007

    Collaborator : Toshio KANOMATA President, Patent Attorney, Toyo International Patent Office

  • Table of Contents

    I. Overview ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・1 1. An Outline of Patent Prosecution ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 1 2. Measures relating to Law Amendments ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・2 3. Instructions based on Administrative Appeal Law ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・2 4. Bibliographies ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 2

    II. Procedures Taken at the Patent Office ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 3

    1. Patent Prosecution Process ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 3 2. Examination Process at Examination Department ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 3

    III. Prosecution (Formality) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・5

    1. Order of Formality Amendment and Response Thereto ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・5 IV. Prosecution (Examination Practice) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・6

    1. Notice of Reasons for Refusal and Response Thereto ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・6 2. Decision of Rejection and Response Thereto ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・13 3. Decision of Grant and Response Thereto ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・16 4. Response by Divisional Application ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・16

    V. Commentary on Individual Law Provisions for Rejection

    and How to Deal with Them (Specifics) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 17 1. Prohibition of Addition of New Matter ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・17 2. Requirements for Invention and Industrial Applicability

    (Principal text of Article 29(1)) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・18 3. Lack of Novelty (Article 29(1)) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・20 4. Lack of Inventiveness (Article 29(2)) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 22 5. Invention Identical to Prior Application (Article 29bis) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 24 6. First and Second Applications (Article 39) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 25 7. Incomplete Description of Specification (Article 36(4) or (6)) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 25 8. Foreign-Language Application and Special Reasons

    for Foreign-Language Application ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・28 9. Unity of Invention (Article 37 of the Patent Law) ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 31

    10. Non-Disclosure of Prior Art Information ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 33 11. Other Reasons for Refusal ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 34

    i

  • VI. Other Procedures ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・ 35 1. Exception to Loss of Novelty of Invention (Article 30 of the Patent Law) ・・・・・・ 35 2. Priority Examination (Article 48sexies of

    the Patent Law, Article 31bis of the Patent Law ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・36 3. Expedited Examination ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・36 4. Japan-US Patent Examination Highway Scheme (Operated on a Trial Basis) ・・・・38 5. Interview with Examiner ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・39

    Appendix 1 ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・41 Appendix 2 ・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・・41

    ii

  • Ⅰ. Overview 1. An Outline of Patent Prosecution

    Patent prosecution means procedures taken by an applicant of a patent application with the

    Examination Department or Appeal Board Department of the Patent Office during the period from

    filing of the application to decision of grant or rejection. Here we focus on patent prosecution at the

    Examination Department, explaining procedures relating to formality, procedures for making

    voluntary amendments, procedures for submitting statements relating to priority-based examination,

    procedures for responding to notice of reasons for refusal, procedures for dividing an application

    and other various procedures to be taken during the period from filing of an application to decision

    of grant or rejection.

    Those procedures need to be taken in the Japanese language and in writing using prescribed

    formats though, most of such documents may be submitted online via the Internet as a result of

    digitalization of operations within the Patent Office. Care should be taken that some prosecution

    procedures may be taken only during a prescribed period of time and that any prosecution procedure

    taken after such a period will be dismissed.

    The most important and most common prosecution procedures are those relating to notice of

    reasons for refusal. A notice of reasons for refusal states the reasons and relevant law provisions

    based on which the application should be rejected. (Article 49 of the Patent Law) Accordingly, reply

    to such a notice must be decided based on correct understanding of alleged incompleteness of, for

    instance, description of claim or specification of invention with respect to which the notice of

    reasons for refusal is issued, and on whether or not the reasons for refusal are appropriate in light of

    relevant law provisions and the given reasons. Based on the decision, the applicant will take

    measures such as submitting an opinion letter and/or amendment, filing a divisional application, or

    making no response.

    In the case where the applicant resides outside Japan, prosecution procedures recited above

    need to be taken by a patent agent who has an address or resides in Japan and acts on behalf of the

    applicant with respect to the patent. (Article 8 of Patent Law) Hence, foreign applicants dealing with

    patent prosecution need to regularly make efforts to ensure good communication with their patent

    agents and correctly understand recognition of an invention and the Patent Law so that appropriate

    measures will be taken by the agents.

    - 1 -

  • 2. Measures relating to Law Amendments

    Since Basic Law on Intellectual Property was adopted in 2002, the Japanese Patent Law has

    been amended almost every year based on the Intellectual Property Promotion Initiatives of each

    year. Recent amendments include introduction of obligation to disclose prior art documents

    (September 2002); abolition of the opposition system and revision of the invalidation action system

    (January 2004); amendment on requirements for unity of invention (January 2004); revision of

    patent-related fees (April 2004); amendments relating to the utility model system centered on

    extension of effective period (April 2005); and establishment of the Intellectual Property High Court

    (April 2005). In April 2007, moreover, law amendments causing significant changes to patent

    prosecution will become effective, including amendments relaxing requirements for divisional

    applications allowing filing of a divisional application after grant of patent, prohibition of

    amendments changing the subject matter to another invention having different technical features,

    and extension of deadlines for filing Japanese translation.

    In any case, an applicant or its agent should closely follow those law amendments and related

    development by, for instance, regularly checking the website of the Patent Office to appropriately

    comply with the new practice and procedu