Patent & Technology Information Center

Establishment of Patent & Technology Information Center*

* Former name: Software Patent Information Center

(1) Revision of Implementing Guidelines for Examination Procedure of Computer Software Related Inventions

To cope with a marked development in software technology the Japan Patent Office (JPO) revised its "Implementing Guidelines for Examination Procedure of Computer Software-related Inventions" in April of 1997. The new guidelines make "a computer-readable storage medium having a program recorded thereon" patentable.

And further, in December of 2000 the JPO revised its "Examination Guidelines for Computer Software-related Inventions", clarifying the examination standards for "Business method-related inventions" utilizing the Information Technology (IT) as well as providing that "a computer program" which specifies a multiple of functions performed by a computer can be defined as "a product invention", and that when information processing by software is concretely realized by using hardware resources, the said software is deemed to be "a statutory invention" prescribed in the Patent Law.

In February 2002, to reinforce patent protection for information-based property such as software and enhance network transactions, a draft law that amends a part of the Patent Law (an amendment to clarify that programs are included in "product" under the Patent Law) has been submitted to the Diet and was promulgated on April 17 of the same year as Law No. 24.

(2) Necessity to Build Databases

The speed of technological development is fast in the computer software-related fields. And further, it is expected that the revision of the guidelines will bring the increase of patent applications in business-related fields such as electronic money and electronic commerce and in other fields, which have been considered unrelated with patent.

Such being the case, it is anticipated that the existing prior art research system, which bases mainly on patent documents, will be unable to effectively cope with examination of applications for computer software-related inventions including business-related inventions.

As requests from the software industry poured in, in order to enhance its prior art researches involved with patent examinations in these fields, the JPO decided to start building the Computer Software Database (hereinafter called "CSDB") which contains non-patent literature including computer software manuals (It is relatively difficult to obtain , although they are distributed.),books, journals, treatises and companies' technical reports, effective from the fiscal year of 1997.

To use CSDB in examinations of computer software-related inventions, cases would not frequently occur in which a technology widely known in the software industry is granted a patent because the documentary evidence is not found, which will hopefully help to check the occurrence of futile disputes and lawsuits.

(3) Establishment of Software Patent Information Center

In order to compile the information to be stored in CSDB, which the JPO will build, Software Patent Information Center (hereinafter called "PIC") was established on July 1, 1997 as an annexed organization of Software Information Center.

PIC collects non-patent literature to be input in CSDB, assigns Computer Software Terms (CS Terms), pick up necessary free key words, makes summaries to collected literature, and compiles the primary literature information and analytical results, etc. for these literatures on computer-readable media, and ultimately delivers to JPO.