Patent Law Update in Japan 2021 and Latest Statistics of Patent Application
Toshinori Tanno, UNIUS Patent Attorneys Office (Japan)
Triggered by the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activities have dramatically changed, as seen in instances such as digitalization, remote work and contactless services. To address these changes, the “Law for Partial Revision of the Patent Act and other Acts, etc.” was proclaimed on May 21, 2021. Some notable revisions to the Patent Act are introduced. Additionally, the latest changes in the number of patent applications and patent allowance rate are also shown.
2. Use of Web Conferencing System
Patent invalidation trials had to be conducted face-to-face by appeal in a trial court. Under the revised act, it is possible for oral trials to now be conducted using a web conferencing system, with effect from Oct. 1st, 2021. The web conferencing system had already been introduced in the examination and the trial against the examiner’s decision of refusal.
3. Revision of the consent requirements for non-exclusive licensees in correction trials
As part of its efforts to address the issues of the existence of hundreds of non-exclusive licensees, an increase in non-exclusive licensees of foreign companies, and complicated patent-right licensing forms etc., the revised act will remove the requirement for licensers to gain consent from non-exclusive licensees, when correcting or waiving patent rights. This will be enforced on Apr. 1st, 2022. The consent of the exclusive licensee is still required.
4. Adoption of “Unintentional” criteria
The revised act will relax the conditions under which right holders are allowed to restore their patent and other rights which have been forfeited due to the expiration of the timeframe for required procedures. The criteria will be revised from “Due Care” to “Unintentional”. This will be enforced in two years from the date of proclamation, May 21, 2021.
5. Introduction of a third-party opinion solicitation system
The revised act will introduce a new system which allows courts to broadly call for opinions from third parties in litigation regarding patent right infringement. In litigation cases that have a large social impact, the evidence collection of the parties can be supplemented or strengthened so that the court can make a judgment based on a wide range of opinions. This will be enforced on Apr. 1st, 2022.
6. Latest Statistics of Patent Application
6.1 Number of Patent Application
The number of patent applications filed with JPO, which had been declining over the past five years, was 288,472 in 2020. Due to the influence of COVID-19, the year-on-year decrease rate was -6.33%, which was the largest in the past five years.
6.2 Patent Allowance Rate
The JPO’s patent allowance rate exceeded 70% from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, the patent allowance rate was 74.9%, down 0.4 points from the previous year. However, this was still a high rate, higher than KIPO (68.8%) and EPO (63.9%). USPTO maintained a high patent allowance rate, similar to JPO.