Japanese Patent FAQs
Q.Is there updated information regarding the extent to which business methods may be protected by patents in Japan?
The number of the business model applications has been decreasing in Japan. This is because of a change in the examination standard for business models in Japan. When business model patent applications were introduced into Japan, the JPO did not have its own examination standard. The JPO seemed to follow the USPTO. At that time, the approval rate was rather high.
However, after Japanese examination standards were established for business model applications, the approval rate of for business method patent applications decreased. The JPO requires specifying a constituent for each action in a business method claim. In other words, hardware must be specified in each step of the claim. This prohibits some typical steps in most business model cases, such as “providing an order (the constituent is the consumer).” Accordingly, it is rather difficult to pursue protection of US style business model cases.
Q.Is patenting of software or business methods available in Japan?
Patenting of software or business methods is available.
Software needs to be defined as a “program” that specifies multiple functions performed by a computer. An example claim description is: “A program that makes a computer execute procedure A, procedure B, procedure C, …”
Business methods are available if a process by software is concretely realized by using hardware resources. Not “a human”, but “a computer” needs to be a subject for the operation in each step of the business method.