Patent FAQs


The Japanese Patenting System

The Japanese patent system resembles the European patent system. However, there are some differences in patent numbering systems, and there have been recent changes to Japanese patent law.

Early Publication

Laid-open, unexamined Japanese patent applications (called ‘Kokai’) are published in Japanese 18 months after their earliest priority date. They are issued on a CD-ROM in mixed mode SGML-like format without search software. To access the information on disc you need:

(a) A subscription to the CD-ROM
(b) A computer with Japanese Windows
(c) Relevant search software.

This CD-ROM is issued twice weekly, and a total of approximately 350,000 kokai are issued every year. Derwent provides abstracts for all of these in the JPO would look like this: h07-12345 B2. Derwent World Patents Index would input this as JP9512345-B.

The last old-law Examined patents were published on 29 March 1996. The last JPO patent number for this publication date was JP96034772-B2. These old-law and, latterly, new-law examined Japanese patents are also issued on CD-ROM, with one disc per week since 1994.

Registered Patent Numbers

Under the old system unopposed patents would be assigned a seven digit registration number from a continuous series, but the patent was not republished under that number.
NOTE: This is a continuous number series which does not start from 0000001 each year and does not have a year prefix. If you are quoted a seven digit Japanese patent number like JP1,900,123, then you cannot order a copy of the text until you know the corresponding kokoku number for the registered patent up until 1996. Copies are available for registered patent numbers above 2,500,000.

This is because under the post grant opposition, the second publication stage now had a registered patent number assigned, starting with registered patent number 2500001.

The first new-law Granted patents were issued by the Japanese Patent Office on 29 May 1996. There was a nine week gap in publication between the last of the old-law and the first of the new-law B documents.

New Japanese Patent Numbers From January 2000

From 1 January 2000 the Japanese Patent Office will use the four digit Gregorian year in their numbering systems rather than the two digit Imperial year. From 1 January 2000 the following number formats will apply:

Type of Document Number Format
Patent applications Pyyyy-nnnnnn
Utility model applications Uyyyy-nnnnnn
Design applications Dyyyy-nnnnnn
Published patentsPyyyy-nnnnnnA (patents based on PCTs begin with Pyyyy-500001A) Pyyyy-nnnnnnA
Published utility models (utility models based on PCTs begin with Uyyyy-600001U utility model registrations start with 3000001) Uyyyy-nnnnnnU
Published designs nnnnnnn

So, a patent application (Kokai) which may currently appear as 08-231479A would be given in the future as P2002-231479A.

Finding Japanese Patents

Searching Derwent World Patents Index is a good way to monitor the latest developments in Japanese technology, as all kokai have been covered since late 1995. If you need assistance in finding any Japanese patent, whether old or new, examined, unexamined or registered, Derwent staff would be delighted to help. We have experienced staff in London and Tokyo who can search in English or Japanese and, if necessary, provide part or full translations.

Machine-assisted translations of Japanese patents and PCT documents are also available, providing the opportunity to quickly scan and filter a selection of Japanese patents prior to (or instead of) investing in customised translations.

This document Copyright Thomson Scientific © 2004

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