Fortunately, the Japanese patent office has an English version of their website where you can find basic information. However, one quickly realizes that the English version does not always give you the information needed to open a record in a docket system or verify a renewal was paid. Have no fear, as I have a few navigation tricks to show you how to get the information you may need.
Japan is one of my greatest achievements from a data-gathering perspective. The key for Japan is navigating through their native website rather than the English version. While learning Japanese takes a little longer than most people have when searching a matter, thankfully, translating through a browser has become easier than ever.
The first step is to follow this link to get you to the native Japanese website. If you somehow get directed to the English version don’t worry, I have a workaround. In the upper right area of the screen, you’ll see a text box that says Japanese, click on that and it will revert to the Japanese version of the website. Take a moment here (if you’re a curious data nerd like me), to toggle between the English and Japanese versions.
You’ll quickly notice that the English version includes less search functionality (hint: watch the hourglass appear and disappear during toggling). Normally, this isn’t important to have as a missing piece. However, that hourglass search is my hidden gem in Japanese searching. You will want to click on that hourglass and then pick the first in the list.
Note, at this point, your browser may ask if you want to translate to English. You can translate if you want at this point, but I’ve found that sometimes after translating, the links or buttons don’t navigate you properly.) I get to the search page by clicking the first option in the hourglass list.
Now you will notice there are four tabs: patents, utility models (“practical use” if Google® translates), designs, and trademarks. Feel free to translate this page, however, I tend to leave it in Japanese since I know what the tabs are referencing.
If you do translate this page, you will see the fields by which you can search for patents. The top field in the list is the application number which is the field search I use the most. However, I’m very aware that we don’t always get the application number (or we don’t trust the application number-like that ever happens). So, if you want you can select the fifth field in the drop-down list and that will allow you to search by patent number. These are the two most common fields I use.
For this example, I’ll go back and search by application number. A nice tip in their search box is it will take more than one application number. All you need to do is separate each application or patent number by a space. It will take up to 20 numbers. This is a time saver because when you get to the results you can navigate from one to the next without having to go back to the search results.
Once the result(s) are displayed, click on the hyperlinked matter that you are interested in, and it will render information on that specific Japanese matter. Jackpot! Now, this page is where I use the browser translation and keep it in translation mode if possible. This is mainly because there is so much useful information that I don’t always recognize which fields provide me with what I might be looking for. I won’t bore you with a field-by-field description of each tab, but I will review generally each tab shown in my example.
The first tab is the Basic tab where you can see some basic bibliographic information about the Japanese matter. It has the application number, application date, patent number, grant date, publication number, publication date, assignee, etc. It does provide a status on this tab but I find the translation to be a bit confusing, so I look at the other tabs as well to determine an up to date status.
Let’s talk Japanese dates for a second. The first item to mention is the date format which is dd-mm-yy. In the example, next to the application number in parentheses, you see a date of (3.6.14). You may think this date is June 3rd, 2014, and in most countries, you would be right. However, the draw back to searching in Japanese is how the Japanese year is displayed. That 14 year that is displayed, that’s a Japanese year.
The general formula for switching to Western year is 1989 + Japanese year. In our example, 1989 + 14 gets you a Western filing year of 2003 which in turn gives you a filing date of June 3rd, 2003. I know what you are thinking, this is daunting, and there are times when I would agree. If you have hundreds of Japanese matters this can be time consuming.
I like to look at it from the viewpoint that you are getting the information directly from the Japanese Patent Office. Your data can’t get much cleaner than the patent office. Plus, if you do this as much as I do, you start to learn quickly what Japanese year we are currently in (29 for those who hate mental math).
The second tab is the information around the application and the application process. They make you scroll a bit for it, but they do list some examination events toward the bottom of the tab. There are no documents to load, and you will have to convert the dates, but in a pinch, this may help you docket that elusive activity that previous counsel or the acquisition didn’t provide.
The third tab is my personal favorite because it has data around the registration information. What makes it my favorite? Two things. The first hidden treasure is the claim count which is displayed in numeric form in the first section above the small, dotted line and is second from the bottom field in that first section. In this example, the claim count is 1.
The second hidden treasure is the confirmation that the annuities have been paid. My trick is to scroll down to the listing of patent annuity payments and look for Japanese years of 28 or 29 (2016 or 2017) payments. Note that they change the date format in this section to yy-mm-dd.
Now you have some hidden treasures for the Japanese patent office website! I’m sure there are more tips and tricks for Japan than I mentioned today. If you know of one, or ten, please let us know or post on our LinkedIn page (you know you want to join if you haven’t already). If you found this valuable, we have an on-demand webinar that focuses on understanding docketing for the Appeal Process in China, Korea, and Japan. Black Hills IP hopes this content becomes a continuous flow of information that the IP community can rely on and act on. We are the leaders in smarter IP data docketing.