The Ministry of International and Economics and the JPO (Japan Patent Office) have been developing an intellectual property system in response to innovations such as IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (Artificial Intelligence).
As part of the development, the JPO published case examples on technologies relating to IoT, AI, 3D printing, etc. in order to clearly show the JPO’s current examination practices in these technical fields.
Further, in this connection, the JPO held a seminar on “How to Obtain Patent Regarding Business-related Inventions” last year.
In Japan, IoT and AI-related inventions are fully protected, and especially regarding business-related inventions, are more likely to be granted for patent than in the United States and the EPO. In fact, the allowance rate for business-related inventions was below 10% in 2000 but recently has been about 70%, which is almost the same as those for inventions in the other technical fields.
In technologies relating to IoT and AI, (i) various data is acquired, (ii) the data is collected via a network and managed, (iii) a large amount of data is analysed/learned, for example, using the AI, and (iv) the data is utilized so that new value and services can be found.
The publication of the case examples was conducted twice, in September 2016 and March 2017, by adding the case examples to the Examination Handbook. The first case examples include twelve relating mainly to (iv) the utilization of data, and the second case examples include eleven relating to (i) the acquisition of the data, (ii) the management of the data, and (iii) the analysis/learning of the data, especially the data and the analysis/learning of the data using AI as shown below.
The case examples were prepared referring to actual domestic/foreign patent applications and include those in the technical fields recently spotlighted such as unmanned autonomous vehicles, drones, wearable devices, agricultural application utilizing IoT, spoken dialogue, smart manufacturing, and deep learning.
It is worthy to note that these clear standards for handling pre-trained models generated by machine learning process and 3D printing data are the first worldwide.
Further, few case examples had been published regarding data structure and structured data so far, but the addition of some examples at this time have made the standards for handling them clearer.
Specifically, when a pre-trained model generated by machine learning process is clearly found to be a “computer program,” it is treated as a “computer program.” One of the case examples relating to AI is that in which the claimed pre-trained model is found to be a computer program and is eligible.
Further, one of the case examples relating to 3D printing is eligible and is very helpful to gain insight into one of the ways of how to recite an eligible claim relating to the 3D printing.
The case examples (“Case Examples on IoT Related Technologies”) are available not only in Japanese but also in English.
[First case examples published in September, 2016]
・Electric rice cooker communicative with external server
・System for allocating unmanned autonomous vehicle
・Water treatment apparatus
・Healthcare using wearable device
・Drone monitoring system
・Supply chain management method
・Running supporting system using wristwatch-type device
・Heavy rain point specifying system using operation information of moving windshield wipers
・Maintenance of medical device
・Maintenance of construction machine
[Second case examples published in March, 2017]
・Sugar Content Data of Apples and a Method for Predicting Sugar Content Data of Apples
・3D printing data of dolls and a 3D printing method of dolls
・Tree-Structured Area Management Data
・Data Structure of Encrypted Package File
・Data Structure of Dialogue Scenarios in Voice Interactive System
・Trained Model for Analyzing Reputations of Accommodations
・3D Printing Data
・Learning System Comprising On-vehicle Devices and a Server
・Quality management program of manufacturing lines
・Tree-Structured Area Management Data
・3D Printing Method and 3D Printing Data
The content of the seminar is as follows. The material used in the seminar is written in Japanese but can be obtained from https://www.jpo.go.jp/torikumi/ibento/text/h28_jitsumusya_txt.htm .
(1) What are business-related inventions?
The definition of business-related inventions, statistics, and advantages of obtaining patent of business-related inventions, etc. are described.
(2) Actually allowed examples of business-related inventions
Nine allowed examples of business-related inventions are introduced.
(3) Things to keep in mind to obtain business-related inventions
The issues peculiar to business-related inventions such as eligibility are described.
(4) Actual examination examples of business-related inventions
Original claims, grounds for refusal to the original claims, amended claims against the grounds for refusal, and final decisions to the amended claims of the actual examination examples are explained. There are four cases including a negative and an affirmative example regarding eligibility and a negative and an affirmative example regarding inventive step.
(5) Examination practices abroad of business-related inventions
The practices regarding business-related inventions in the EPO, the United States, China, and Korea are explained.
Business-related inventions include both technical and non-technical features. The non-technical features are ignored under the practice of the United States and the EPO. However, under the Japanese practice, only objective judgment is required to determine whether the claim is recited such that it is understandable that information processing by the software is specifically implemented by using hardware resources. Further, all features of the claim are also examined without separating technical and non-technical features in the determination of inventive step.
Thus, business-related inventions are more likely to be granted for patent in Japan because all features of the claim are also examined without separating technical and non-technical features in the determination of inventive step. The case examples and the “How to Obtain Patent Regarding Business-related Inventions” help you to better understand the aforementioned Japanese practices.