Saturday, April 8, 2017

Reemerging Business Method Patents in Japan

In the United States, business method patents or software patents have been unstable after Alice. On the other hand, in Japan, the number of patent applications and patent grant rate for business related inventions have been on the increase.

On March 24, Japan Patent Office (JPO) released "Recent Trends in Business-related Inventions*". According to JPO, the number of patent applications for business-related inventions has been on an upward trend since 2011, and 7,111 patent applications were filed in 2015. The patent grant rate for them has been also improved. It is now 69% for patent applications filed in 2012, while it was less than 10% for applications filed in 2000 when business method patents became the rage which was originated from the US. JPO explains that a better understanding of the Patent Examination Guidelines has improved the patent grant rate.
(Note *: “Business-related Invention” is defined as invention which realizes a business method by using information and communication technology.)

New services using IT technology have been developed one after another in a variety of fields. Such services often have uniqueness in their business models, rather than element technologies which are used to realize those services. Therefore, the service providers have more interest in obtaining patents to protect their business models. In the coming years, it is expected that patent applications for IoT-related and/ or AI-related business models will further increase.

The table below shows the Japan patent ranking in the number of patents granted in 2016 in the field of business-related inventions (FI = G06Q). Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) is ranked in the top 10. SMBC was covered in the previous articles of this blog, "A Japanese Megabank Launches IP Marketplace for their Clients" and "SMBC Signs MoU to Partner with NineSigma". It is rediscovered that SMBC has strong interest in intellectual property.


  1. Has the JPO published any data on business-related invention allowance rates for the years after 2012?

    1. Thank you for your interest. No, the allowance rates for the years after 2012 has not been published yet.

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