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.
Accordingly, calculation methods or encryption determined by arbitrarily defined rules, for instance for finance and insurance systems or taxation methods, which are not based on natural laws and rules, do not represent a protected subject.
Since the recent rapid development and diffusion of information technology (IT) are dramatically changing, so-called "business method patents" can greatly influence various industries. The business method patents can be approved as part of software related patents in Japan. In order to obtain a patent right in Japan, one must apply to the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and go through an examination to determine whether the application fulfills all the necessary requirements.
Japan has adopted the first-to-file system. Accordingly, it is advisable to file as soon as possible after invention. It is also advisable not to make the invention public before filing a patent application. The whole procedure from filing to registration in Japan is shown in the flowchart below.
? An application document submitted to the JPO is checked to see whether it fulfills the necessary procedural and formal requirements.
? The JPO publishes the content of an application in the Official Gazette after 18 months from the filing date of the patent application.
? A substantive examination is carried out only for the application for which the applicant or a third party has filed a request for examination and paid the examination fees. Any application for which a request for examination has not been filed within a period of 3 years from filing date is automatically regarded as withdrawal and cannot be patented thereafter.
? The examination is carried out by an examiner of the JPO. The examiner checks whether the application fulfills substantive requirements prescribed by law.
? If the examiner finds reasons for refusal, a notification of reasons for refusal is sent to the applicant.
? An applicant who has received the notification of reasons for refusal is given an opportunity to submit a written argument and/or an amendment.
? As a result of the examination, the examiner makes a decision to grant a patent if no reasons for refusal have been found. The examiner also makes the same decision if the reasons for refusal have been eliminated by the argument and/or the amendment.
? On the other hand, the examiner makes a decision of refusal, if the reasons for refusal have not been eliminated.
? When dissatisfaction is in the decision of refusal of the examiner, the applicant may appeal against the decision of refusal. The appeal examination against the decision of refusal is performed by a collegial body of appeal examiners.
? Provided that the applicant pays the patent fee, once the decision to grant a patent has been made, the patent right will come into effect as it is entered in the Patent Register. After a patent is registered, a certificate of patent will be sent to the applicant. The contents of the patent right entered in the Register are published in the Patent Gazette. The patent is protected for 20 years from the day when an application was filed.