The Japan Patent Office (JPO) sequentially revised Examination Guidelines and related materials for Patents, Designs and Trademarks in 2015 and 2016. The following is a summary of each revision.

1. Patents

On September 16, 2015, the JPO released the comprehensively revised “Examination Guidelines for Patent and Utility Model” and “Examination Handbook for Patent and Utility Model” in accordance with the following objectives:

(1) To explain examination practices clearly and logically so that domestic and overseas users can easily understand the basic ideas;
(2) To provide a sufficient number of case examples in the Examination Handbook in order to improve the predictability for obtaining patent rights, and ensure a proper balance between patentable and unpatentable cases; and
(3) To make the Examination Guidelines internationally acceptable in order to encourage foreign IP offices to adopt practices in line with the JPO’s Guidelines.

For ease of reference, the JPO provides the “Outline of the Examination Guidelines for Patent and Utility Model,” including the overview of the further revision in March 2016.

2. Designs

Part VII, Chapter IV “Design Including a Graphic Image on a Screen” of the “Examination Guidelines for Design” was revised on March 11, 2016 to allow applicants to obtain a design registration of a “graphic image” displayed on a display part of an article as long as the graphic image has been recorded in the article.

3. Trademarks

On March 22, 2016, the JPO released the extensively revised “Examination Guidelines for Trademarks.” The key points are explained in the News Release at the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The Working Group in charge of Examination Guidelines for Trademarks has already started the discussion about further revisions to be implemented in April 2017.