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Japan to Be France’s First Partner for Patent Prosecution Highway Program

November 27, 2020

On January 1, 2021, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the National Institute of Industrial Property (Institut national de la propriété industrielle; INPI) will commence the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) program. The JPO is the first partner in the world with which France will operate the program. Using the PPH, applicants will be able to undergo an accelerated examination with a simplified procedure in France if their applications are determined to be patentable in Japan.

1. Background

As the number of patent applications filed worldwide has been growing in line with economic globalization, the number of those filed by Japanese companies with overseas patent offices has also been increasing. To address this situation, the JPO has been promoting the PPH program*1 so as to enable applicants to acquire patent rights overseas promptly, secure quality protection of rights, and reduce examination workload.

*1 The PPH program enables an applicant whose application has been determined to be patentable by the Office of First Filing (OFF) to undergo an accelerated examination in the Office of Second Filing (OSF) with a simple procedure upon request of the applicant on the basis of bilateral office agreements.

2. PPH pilot program with France

Following the amendment to the Intellectual Property Code and the enhancement of the examination procedure in France based on the Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation (Plan d'Action pour la Croissance et la Transformation des Entreprises; PACTE), the JPO and the INPI jointly stated the intent to launch the PPH pilot program on January 1, 2021. As the INPI has not operated a PPH program with any other patent office in the world, the JPO will be its first PPH partner.

The PPH will enable applicants whose applications have been determined to be patentable by the JPO to undergo an accelerated examination at the INPI with a simple procedure upon request of the applicants. With a number of Japanese companies investing in France, the launch of the PPH pilot program is expected to facilitate the business expansion of Japanese companies in France.

As a result of the agreement with the INPI, the JPO has entered into PPH programs with 45 countries and regions, having the largest number of PPH partners in the world. The JPO will continue to serve as the “hub office” in the PPH via which applicants who have acquired rights in Japan can also acquire rights in other countries and regions at an early stage. Through the PPH program, the JPO will continue to support Japanese applicants in acquiring rights overseas in a prompt and stable manner, while using the examination results provided by the partner patent offices to improve the quality of examination and reduce examination workload at the JPO.