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Release of the Results of the FY2017 User Satisfaction Surveys on Examination Quality

The Japan Patent Office (JPO) has been conducting User Satisfaction Surveys on Examination Quality every fiscal year targeting patent, design and trademark applications. The FY2017 survey results uncovered that the ratio of respondents who positively evaluated the overall quality of patent examinations in all respondents was 58.3%, showing an increase from the previous year. As for the overall quality of the International Search and International Preliminary Examination on Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Applications, the ratio of respondents who positively evaluated it was 54.2%.

As for the overall quality of design examinations, the ratio of those who positively evaluated it was 58.0%, showing an increase from the previous year in the respective questionnaire items involving: easy-to-understand description in notifications of reasons for refusal, easy-to-understand description of decision of refusal, consistency of judgements among examiners, prior design search, and international applications for design registration.

As for the overall quality of trademark examinations, the ratio of respondents who positively evaluated it was 48.3%, while that of those who negatively evaluated it by scoring it a 2 or less on a 5-point scale decreased from 14.0% in FY2016 to 7.2%, showing a declining tendency over these years.

The JPO will continue to strive to improve examination quality.

1. Background to the surveys

The JPO has been endeavoring to improve the examination quality level to satisfy the needs of users of the intellectual property systems (herein after referred to as the “IP users”), as part of the efforts for supporting global business development and contributing to promoting innovations.

As an essential element to achieve this goal, the JPO needs to appropriately ascertain such IP users’ needs and expectations. To this end, the JPO has been conducting such surveys for examination quality concerning patent, design and trademark applications targeting IP users in order to gain their evaluation scores.

2. Outline of the survey results

(1) Patent examination

[Key point of the survey results]

  • The ratio of respondents who positively evaluated the overall quality of patent examinations by scoring it a 4 or more on a 5-point scale showed an increase from 57.0% in FY2016 to 58.3%.
  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the overall quality of the International Search and International Preliminary Examination on Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Applications was 54.2%, showing an increase from 48.4% in FY2016.
  • In particular, the ratio of those who positively evaluated the quality concerning the following questionnaire items was over 60%: thorough and easy-to-understand description in notifications of reasons for refusal (except for any decisions of refusal) (67.2%), domestic patent literature searches (65.7%), and communication with examiners such as face-to-face interviews and telephone conversations (62.1%).*

[Remaining challenges]

  • The JPO should continue to strive to maintain and improve the quality of consistency of judgements among examiners, an item on which IP users place emphasis.

 (2) Design examination

[Key point of the survey results]

  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the overall quality of design examinations was 58.0%, showing a decrease from 61.0% in FY2016.
  • Such positive evaluation increased from the previous year in the following questionnaire items: easy-to-understand description in notifications of reasons for refusal (except for any decisions of refusal), easy-to-understand description of decision of refusal, consistency of judgements among examiners, prior design search, and international applications for design registration.
  • In particular, the ratio of those who positively evaluated the quality concerning the following items was over 50%: descriptions of notifications of reasons for refusal and other documents (59.7%), prior design search (51.5%) and communication with examiners (75.6%).
  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the communication with examiners such as face-to-face interviews and telephone conversations was 75.6%.*

 [Remaining challenges]

  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the overall quality of design examinations declined from the previous year. The JPO will strive to analyze and ascertain the cause of this decline.
  • The JPO should continue to strive to maintain and improve the quality of the level of expert knowledge, an item on which IP users place emphasis.

 (3) Trademark examination

[Key point of the survey results]

  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the overall quality of trademark examinations was 48.3%, showing a decrease from 50.5% in FY2016, while that of those who negatively evaluated it decreased from 14.0% in FY2016 to 7.2%.
  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the quality concerning the following items was over 50%, remaining at the same level as in FY2016: necessary explanations concerning the notifications of reasons for refusal (51.9%) as well as understandable sentences thereof (56.1%); necessary explanation on invitation for amendment (60.1%) and understandable sentences thereof (61.0%) as well as appropriate responses thereof (54.6%); smooth communication with examiners through telephone and interviews (64.2%), and other items.
  • Concerning the following two items, the ratio of respondents who positively evaluated the overall quality increased from the previous year, showing an improvement: uniformity with related examination guidelines and manuals from 31.7% in FY2016 to 35.8% and consistency of determination among examiners (uniformity of determination) from 23.3% in FY2016 to 30.1%.

[Remaining challenges]

  • The ratio of those who positively evaluated the overall quality of trademark examinations declined from the previous year. The JPO will strive to analyze and ascertain the cause of this decline.
  • The JPO should also continue to maintain and improve the quality of examinations involving judgement of distinctiveness, judgement of similarities, consistency of determination among examiners (uniformity of determination) and other examination practices, which are items on which IP users place emphasis.

(4) Future surveys

Following on from FY2017, the JPO will conduct a similar survey in FY2018.

*Note: As a goal to be achieved in FY2017, the JPO strives to achieve over a 60% positive evaluation for the quality of smooth communication with examiners. Achievement of the goal will be determined in the FY2018 survey results.

Reference: Overview of the survey method

The JPO conducted the FY2017 survey on the quality of patent, design and trademark examinations focusing on two sections: overall quality of examinations and respective applications (as for the patent and trademark categories, sample application documents extracted by the JPO; as for the design category, application documents chosen by respondents), and asked respondents to score each section on a 5-point scale.

Patent:
Between June and August 2017, the survey was conducted targeting 725 IP users and 2,701 applications. The response rate was approximately 90%.
Design:
Between June and August 2017, the survey was conducted targeting 352 IP users and 245 applications. The response rate was approximately 90%.
Trademark:
Between June and August 2017, the survey was conducted targeting 420 IP users and 420 applications. The response rate was approximately 90%.

Release date

February 19, 2018

Division in Charge

Quality Management Office, Administrative Affairs Division, Patent and Design Examination Department (Physics, Optics, Social Infrastructure and Design), JPO

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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