Support for SMEs by the Japan Patent Office

Comprehensive Support Measures for SMEs

The JPO provides comprehensive support through various measures to SMEs that sustain the industrial foundation in Japan and play a significant role as the driving force of regional economies, as well as to venture companies that are expected to create new industries.


1) Support in the Areas of Diffusion, Human Resources Development, and Consultation Concerning Industrial Property Rights

a) Explanatory Meetings and Seminars for SMEs

    The JPO holds explanatory meetings on intellectual property rights for those at the introductory level who wish to start learning about intellectual property rights, and those who have just been transferred to the intellectual property division in their companies.

    The JPO also holds seminars on strategic acquisition of intellectual property rights that meet regional needs and on how to exploit such rights, for people such as corporate managers and persons responsible for R&D.

b) Free Consultation Sessions and Workshops

    The JPO offers individual consultation services by experts on specific matters related to industrial property rights nationwide.

c) Consultation Services on Industrial Property Rights

    Dedicated staff members in the Patent Offices in the respective Regional Bureaus of Economy, Trade, and Industry offer regular consultation services regarding basic matters from the filing of applications to registration and the actual procedure for filing an application.

2) Support for Exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights Information and the Application Procedures

a) Patent Information Advisors

In order to support stimulation of local industries through use of patent information, the National Center for Industrial Property Information and Training (INPIT) dispatches patent information advisors, who are experts in exploiting patent information, to various locations in response to requests by prefectural governments (54 advisors as of April 2006). It also provides visit consultation services and workshops for SMEs free of charge.

3) Support Related to Examination Requests for Industrial Property Applications

a) Support of Prior Art Searches for SMEs

In order to support proper assessment as to whether an examination should be requested or not, private searching organizations commissioned by the JPO perform prior art searches free of charge for patent applications of SMEs and individuals prior to requests for examination, upon request of the applicant, and deliver the search results by mail.

b) Reduction of or Exemption from Examination Request Fees

The JPO grants an exemption from or a 50% reduction of examination request fees for individuals or companies that lack funds if they comply with certain requirements. In addition, the JPO grants a 50% reduction of examination request fees for SMEs dedicated to R&D.

4) Support for Examinations and Appeals/Trials of Industrial Property Applications

a) Accelerated Examinations/Accelerated Appeal and Trial Examinations

In cases in which a patent applicant is an SME or an individual, or if the applicant is already employing the invention, examination or appeal/trial examination is conducted more quickly than in the case or regular applications if the applicant submits an “explanation of circumstances concerning accelerated examination (accelerated trial/appeal examination)”.

b) Interview Examinations and Interview Appeal/Trial Examinations, Circuit Examinations, and TV Interview Examinations

The JPO supports more precise acquisition of rights by offering opportunities for applicants or their agents and the examiners or appeal examiners to meet in person and deepen their understanding of the applications and the technologies/designs.

In addition to interview examinations and interview appeal/trial examinations conducted at the JPO, the JPO examiners or appeal examiners also visit various locations nationwide to conduct circuit examinations, regional interview appeal/trial examinations, and circuit appeals/trials. Also, the JPO conducts TV interview examinations using a TV conference system installed at the patent offices of the respective Regional Bureaus of Economy, Trade and Industry.

5) Support for Registration of Intellectual Property Rights

a) Reduction of or Exemption from the Patent Annual Fees

The JPO grants an exemption from patent annual fees (from the first year to the third year) or a grace period of three years to individuals or companies that lack funds if they comply with certain requirements. In addition, the JPO grants a 50% reduction in annual patent fees (from the first year to the third year) to SMEs dedicated to R&D.

6) Support for Exploitation of Industrial Property Rights

a) Patent Licensing Advisors

With the aim of uncovering licensable patents owned by universities, public research institutions, and companies, understanding the technological needs of SMEs and venture companies, and meeting those needs, the INPIT dispatches patent licensing advisors, who are experts with a wealth of knowledge and experience on intellectual property rights and technology transfers, upon request of prefectural governments and TLOs (106 advisors as of April 2006).

Patent licensing advisors have contributed to successful patent licensing to SMEs and venture companies in many cases.

7) Comprehensive Support for SMEs by Intellectual Property Right Specialists

In April 2005, the JPO introduced Intellectual Property Right Specialists as experts for providing comprehensive support for SMEs. These specialists disseminate the intellectual property system and its support measures to local companies and SMEs, provide consultation services for these, as well as engage in awareness-raising activities and human resources development activities related to intellectual property for local companies and SMEs. The following are the activities conducted in FY2005.

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