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JPO Releases Report on Annual User Satisfaction Survey on Patent Examination Quality

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) hereby announces the results of its annual user satisfaction survey on patent examination quality, based on valuable feedback from its users. Taking into consideration the results of this survey, the JPO will continue its efforts for sustaining and enhancing the quality of patent examination.

1. Overview of survey results

Similar to the past two surveys on patent examination quality, this survey also showed a high response rate of around 90% from users, exceeding the participation rate of many other surveys. This indicates that users have a keen interest in patent examination quality.

Approximately 90% of survey participants responded with a greater than or equal to “3: Neutral” on a five-point satisfaction scale. Overall, this indicates a rather favorable level of satisfaction with the quality of patent examination.

Having changed the survey method for this survey, the JPO received higher satisfaction level responses concerning patent examination quality from both oversea applicants and attorneys compared with national applicants. Although responses which were selected anonymously were about 10%, the survey evaluation showed no significant differences depending on the selective option for anonymous or named.

The following shows the result of a visualization analysis for the correlation between the level of satisfaction of each aspect of the patent examination process and the overall level of quality satisfaction.

  1. The level of satisfaction has increased for many evaluated aspects of the patent examination process, especially in terms of Unity of Invention (a requirement for defining the scope of what one application can cover regarding more than two inventions), which showed an increasingly positive level of satisfaction.
  2. The measures to be addressed by the JPO for continued consideration were the following: providing sufficient explanation in the notification of reasons for refusal (notification by an examiner when an application is refused); reducing the discrepancies of patentability judgments among examiners; and enhancing sufficient prior art searches, especially foreign patent literature searches and non-patent literature (such as papers) searches.


Fig. 1: Overall Quality in General of Patent Examinations on National Applications


Fig. 2: Overall Quality in General of International Search and International Preliminary
Examinations on PCT applications

2. Overview of the survey

Total number of user participants: 709
Number of applications: 2808
The survey was distributed and collected between Aug. and Nov., 2014, and was based on the following four items based on a 5-point scale.

  1. Overall Quality in General of Patent Examinations on National Applications
  2. Quality of Patent Examinations on Specified National Applications (Certified copies of an examiner's decision transmitted in 2013)
  3. Overall Quality in General of the International Searches and the International Preliminary Examinations of PCT Applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty
  4. Quality of International Searches and International Preliminary Examinations on Specified PCT Applications (Reports dispatched in 2013)

Here, patent examination refers to procedures for understanding inventions, prior art searches, judgments of patentability, and notifications of judgment results. For each of topics 1 and 3 above, responses were solicited in regard to 10 or more items regarding the patent examination process, based on a 5-point scale.

The JPO is working to better understand areas of particular concern by analyzing the relationship between satisfaction levels in terms of each item and the overall level of satisfaction regarding quality.

A visualization analysis like the one conducted here on patent examination quality, which is based on analyzing factor correlations, is a unique approach that has not been used for other user satisfaction surveys conducted by other offices such as the EPO and the USPTO. Therefore, persons in charge of quality management in overseas’ patent offices are keenly interested in the JPO’s surveys.

In this 2014 survey, for the first time, users were able to respond anonymously. This was done in order to obtain free and open comments from survey respondents. Also, the JPO polled overseas applicants directly, i.e., not through their representatives in Japan, as well as attorneys, in order to gauge their perspectives.

3. Positioning of this survey

Japan’s Growth Strategy, which is outlined in Japan’s Revitalization Strategy that was revised in 2014, aims to make Japan the world’s foremost nation for intellectual property. In 2014, new measures were added which included “achieving examination that is the fastest and of the utmost quality in the world”. Enhancing the quality of examination is a global trend. For example, the commissioner of the European Patent Office (EPO) stated, “Quality is our top priority”. Likewise, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) set a goal to “Optimize Patent Quality and Timeliness”, making this the first priority in its 2014-2018 strategy.

Amidst this trend, in April, 2014, the JPO released its Quality Policy on Patent Examination, which outlines the fundamental principles of its quality management of patent examination. Also, the Subcommittee on Examination Quality Management under the Intellectual Property Committee of the Industrial Structure Council, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was established in August 2014, as a part of the JPO’s initiative to launch an objective quality management system based on the feedback of external experts.

In addition, to achieve the utmost quality on patent examination in the world, it is essential that the JPO make continuous efforts to sustain and enhance the quality of its patent examination practices. This includes gaining an accurate understanding of the needs and expectations of its users who include both applicants and third parties. Therefore, the JPO has conducted a user satisfaction survey on its quality of patent examination annually, since FY2012.

This survey is regarded as an important means for achieving the fundamental principles outlined in the Quality Management Policy mentioned above. In addition, the report Aiming for Enhanced Examination Quality Management (FY2014), announced in April, 2014 by the subcommittee on Examination Quality Management, states that the framework for incorporating the results of the surveys into initiatives of the Quality Management needs to be further strengthened.

Reference

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Release date

May 27, 2015

Division in Charge

Quality Management Office, Administrative Affairs Division, Patent and Design Examination Division, Japan Patent Office

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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