The Japan Patent Office (JPO) will halve patent costs for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as early as fiscal 2019. The JPO will lower the patent costs from the current 400,000 yen per patent on average to about 200,000 yen. Many SMEs possess unique skills, but it is thought they are not fully using the related intellectual property rights. With the ultimate goal of enhancing domestic companies’ global competitiveness, the JPO will continue studying the matter with an eye to making patent application costs among the lowest in major countries, thus making it easier for companies to apply.
To obtain a patent, applicants must pay various costs, including an application fee, a fee to request examination of the application, and a fee to maintain the patent rights. At present, the JPO reduces such costs only for SMEs in the red and R&D-oriented SMEs with high testing and research expenses, and applicants often complain that the procedures are complicated and not applicant-friendly.
Under the upcoming revisions, however, reductions will apply to all SMEs and examination procedures will be simplified. At the same time, the application fee for international patents, which is more than 100,000 yen at present, will also be halved. If realized, patent costs in Japan will be among the lowest in advanced countries. To make up for the expected loss of revenue, the JPO is considering increasing the patent costs for large companies. In 2018, the JPO will revise the Act on Strengthening Industrial Competitiveness and other relevant laws to implement the revisions.
During 2016, SMEs made up about 15% of all patent applications. That marks an increase from the 11% in 2012, but SMEs are still not fully utilizing their intellectual property by acquiring patents. Moreover, the number of patent applications in Japan remains low compared to other countries. Looking at the number of patents submitted to the five major patent offices of Japan, the U.S., China, South Korea, and Europe, patent applications in China significantly increased in 2016, while applications in Japan decreased slightly.
It takes 14.6 months on average from request for examination to final granting of patent. Through the cost reduction, the JPO aims to increase the number of patent applications from SMEs. In addition, the JPO will also make the examination process more efficient by harnessing artificial intelligence. The JPO has also begun providing a service of sending an examiner to patent applicants’ offices to conduct on-site interviews as part of the examination. The JPO aims to receive 1,000 applications a year by fiscal 2020 by introducing a more applicant-friendly process.