The subject of protection of a patent is an invention which is the highly advanced creation of technical idea by which a law of nature is utilized. The invention includes products and methods.
On the other hand, the subject of protection of a utility model in Japan is a device relating to the shape or construction of articles or a combination of articles. Accordingly, a method cannot become a subject for registration in a utility model.
The whole procedure from filing to registration in Japan is shown in the flowchart below.
❶ In order to obtain a utility model right in Japan, one must apply to the Japan Patent Office (JPO). Patent applications do not necessarily require the attachment of drawings, but in the case of utility model applications, their attachment is compulsory. In addition to the application fee, registration fee for the first three years must be paid at the time of filing.
❷ In contrast to patent applications, there is no system of request for examination for applications for utility model registration. Having no substantive examination of whether the application is novel and involves an inventive step, the examiner checks simply the basic requirements in addition to the conventional formality check.
❸ For all applications which have passed the formality check as well as satisfying the basic requirements, the registration of the utility model right is registered.
➍ When the utility model right has been registered, a certificate of utility monde is sent to the applicant. The contents of the utility model right are published in the Utility Model Gazette. The utility model is protected for 10 years from the day when an application was filed.
Since utility model rights are registered without a substantive examination, it is essential for applicant to make a decision of whether or not to file an application on the basis of a thorough prior art search. A registrability report, prepared by an examiner on the basis of a search of prior art documents, enables an objective judgment to be made about the validity of registered utility model right. It can be requested by any person at any time after the filing of the application.