Basis of Japanese Patent Law

Japanese patent law is based on the first-to-file principle and governed by the Patent Act (Tokkyoho) of Japan, which was designed by referencing to European patent system.

Patent Application and prosecution

The patent prosecution procedure at JPO is similar to that in most other patent systems. A person who is the first to file an application for a patent for an invention may obtain that patent, rather than a different person who is the first to invent the same invention.

A patent is granted for an invention only if:

  • the claims are novel; It is not patentable if the invention was known to the public, or was publicly worked, or it was described in apublication or made publicly available either in Japan or a foreign country prior to the filing of the application.
  • the claims are inventive; If a person ordinarily skilled in the art would have been able to easily make the invention based on prior art or publicly known information, the invention cannot be patented.
  • the invention is industrially applicable; The invention must first be industrially applicable. “Industry” is a broad concept that includes manufacturing industries, agricultural, fishing and forestry industries, mining industries, commercial industries, and service industries.

In addtion to the 3 conditions above, the invention also has to meet following criteia: the invention does not harm public order, morality or public health; the specification discloses the invention in a manner sufficiently clear and complete for a person skilled in the art to carry it out; the statement of the claims is clear; the application meets the requirement for unity of invention; the applicant is the first to file the application for the invention; the applicant has the right to obtain a patent for the invention; and any amendments for specification, claims and drawings are within the scope of the features disclosed in the original application.

Effects of patent rights

Once an application is granted a patent, the applicant must pay the annual fees for the first three years so the patent right can come into force by registration. The term of patent in Japan is 20 years from the filing date.

A patent owner has an exclusive right to commercially utilize the patented invention, or to grant an exclusive license or a non-exclusive license to other parties.




Japanese patent law is based on the first-to-file principle.

A patent is granted for an invention only if it is novel, inventive and industrially applicable.



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