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Japan Patent OfficeJPO to Promote Cooperation concerning Classification for Patents and Designs with the USPTO

On February 23, 2016, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) signed Memorandums of Cooperation concerning classification in the fields of intellectual property (patents and designs respectively) between the two Offices. The JPO will promote cooperation concerning classification and develop an environment that enables Japanese applicants to acquire stable patent and design rights in the U.S.

1. Background

Classifications are assigned to patent documents and design documents in order to categorize the fields of applied technologies and designs. A classification system is an important tool for effectively conducting prior searches of patent/design documents, and currently, the JPO and USPTO independently employ their own classification systems. The JPO and USPTO confirmed that they would strengthen their cooperation concerning patent classification in March 2015 and this time they agreed on the specific details of their cooperation.
Also, while the JPO and USPTO have been regularly holding expert meetings on design classification since 2014 to enhance their mutual understanding of each office’s design classification, they agreed to start cooperation concerning design classification for the first time.

2. Details of cooperation

(1) Patent classification

The JPO conducts prior searches of patent documents utilizing its own classification and search indexes (*1), and their usefulness is recognized by foreign patent offices as well.
The goal for cooperation concerning patent classification is to incorporate Japan’s own search indexes into the U.S. patent classification system in technology fields that appear in both the patent classification system employed by the JPO and that employed by the USPTO (*2), which will enable patent examiners at the USPTO to search for patent documents issued by the JPO using the same search indexes as those used by patent examiners at the JPO. At first, the incorporation of these indexes is to be conducted in five fields (*3) on a trial basis by June 2016 as a target for completion. Thereafter, the JPO and USPTO are to consider conducting such incorporation of indexes in fields other than the first five fields as well.
This cooperation is expected to enable patent examiners at the USPTO to more accurately search for patent documents issued by the JPO as well as to enable Japanese companies to acquire more stable patent rights in the U.S.

(2) Design classification

In this cooperation, the JPO and USPTO are to take measures such as further promoting information sharing on the use and operation of design classification systems as well as preparing concordance tables between the design classification system of the JPO and that of the USPTO.
The efficiency of prior design searches is expected to be improved by taking the aforementioned measures with the USPTO, which is important as a patent office with which Japanese applicants file design applications.

3. Future efforts

The JPO will develop an environment that enables Japanese applicants to acquire stable rights in the U.S. by strengthening the cooperative relationship between the JPO and USPTO.

Note 1: “Japan’s own search indexes” refers to the File Forming Terms (F-terms), which have categories for technologies assigned to patent documents from multiple viewpoints (purpose of invention, applications, structures, materials, production methods, processing operation procedures, means of control, etc.).
Note 2: The JPO employs the FI (File Index) system, and the USPTO employs the CPC (Cooperative Patent Classification) system.
Note 3: The five fields are 1) cabinets and racks with rigid structures and the like, 2) heterocyclic compounds, 3) fire-retardant materials, 4) document processing devices, and 5) superconducting generators and electric motors.

Release date

February 25, 2016

Division in Charge

1) Information on patent classification
Examination Policy Planning Office, Administrative Affairs Division, Patent and Design Examination Department (Physics, Optics, Social Infrastructure and Design), JPO
2) Information on design classification
Design Division, Patent and Design Examination Department (Physics, Optics, Social Infrastructure and Design), JPO

Last updated:2016-03-04
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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