AI Initiatives at the JPO

February 10, 2021 – Article

As a follow-up to the previous post on AI Initiatives at the EPO, we provide an update on the activities by the JPO – 1) creation of a new Team for Supporting AI Examinations in January 2021, and 2) a recent publication of a PCT application, titled Management System And Management Method, filed by JAPAN AS REPRESENTED BY COMMISSIONER OF THE JAPAN PATENT OFFICE.

1) Creation of Team for Supporting AI Examinations

The JPO announced the creation of this Support Team on January 20, 2021.
https://www.meti.go.jp/english/press/2021/0120_002.html

As in other patent offices, the JPO examiners are assigned to different examination divisions based on the technical fields. What the JPO did for further collaboration among these divisions is to identify an AI Official and an administrative member in each division, and group the AI Officials and the administrative members from these divisions into a Team for Supporting AI Examinations. According to the JPO, the Support Team will “accumulate and share knowledge on the latest AI-related technologies and case examples of examination results, hold discussions on related measures for patent examinations and conduct other efforts.” The AI Officials will serve as “hub of examinations concerning AI-related inventions,” and “provide consultation services to examiners outside the team and thereby support examiners in achieving efficient and quality examinations.” 

Based on the above, it appears that the examiners can consult the AI Officials when they face any issues during examinations, but from the Applicant’s perspective, it is interesting to see if the Applicant is allowed to request involvement of an AI Official or the Support Team on the examination of a specific application. At the USPTO the examiners facing issues on subject matter eligibility under 35 USC 101 could discuss with 101 specialists, and in some cases the examiners did so and had internal discussions, upon Applicant’s request for involvement of 101 specialists. At this time it is unclear whether the JPO contemplates allowing similar procedures, but setting up a “hub” to share knowledge and experience is expected to help maintenance of consistent examination policy.

2) Publication of a PCT application, titled Management System And Management Method, filed by JAPAN AS REPRESENTED BY COMMISSIONER OF THE JAPAN PATENT OFFICE

The JPO has developed and filed a Japanese patent application on “a system for searching patent documents and a system for managing it (collectively called “ADPAS”) by fully taking advantage of experimental AI and other technologies,” according to the announcement on May 11, 2020. 

            https://www.meti.go.jp/english/press/2020/0511_002.html

JP Patent No. 6691280 was issued to the Commissioner of the JPO on April 28, 2020, which led to the above announcement. The JPO indicated that its acquisition of Japanese patent rights “aims to: [i] ensure the stable operation of the new, in-house developed system for searching patent documents within the JPO and [ii] enable a wide range of domestic users and overseas patent offices and other related organizations to make use of the patented technologies in a safe and legal manner.”  The JPO’s brief description of the technology is as follows:

Through this system, users are able to use their desired language and patent classification system to conduct a collective search of patent documents from around the world, which are written in a variety of languages and have been classified using different patent classification systems*, e.g., searching documents from around the world with the Japanese language and FI, which is Japan’s well-organized patent classification system.
*Note 1: Patent classification is a system under which certain indices are assigned to patent applications according to the details of the inventions described in the applications. Patent classification systems often vary among countries and regions.

We recently learned on February 4, 2021, that WO2021/019831 was published from the PCT application PCT/JP2020/011838 filed March 17, 2020, which claims priority to the application corresponding to the above Japanese patent. The English Abstract is below. 

Provided are a management system and management method with which information pertaining to a patent document can be managed efficiently. This management system has: a first server for obtaining, from a data group that includes form information and content information for a plurality of patent documents, the form information for each patent document; a second server for obtaining, from an external database, a document number and bibliographic information that has been converted into a common data format, for each patent document; a third server for generating first integrated information wherein the form information and the bibliographic information have been integrated, for each patent document for which the first server has obtained form information; and a fourth server for generating classification information for each patent document. After completion of the first integrated information the third server generates second integrated information wherein the first integrated information and the classification information have been integrated for each patent document.

The International Search Report, issued by the JPO as the International Search Authority, did not identify any documents considered to be of particular relevance. The Written Opinion indicates the claimed invention has novelty and inventive step. It will be interesting to watch how any national stage applications are treated by a patent office other than the JPO. This will be especially true if patent protection is sought in the U.S., where the claims may be scrutinized for patent subject matter eligibility since they appear to be based on data format conversion and integration techniques.

In addition to seeking and obtaining the patent rights, the JPO has filed an application for a trademark registration of “ADPAS” according to the announcement on May 11, 2020. Two Japanese domestic trademark applications were filed on July 30, 2019, and an international application was filed under the Madrid Protocol on the same date, and the trademark was internationally registered on August 6, 2019. See International Registration Number 1492696 “ADPAS”.

We could see the JPO’s interests and efforts in taking the active role in developing a patent examination system utilizing AI. As discussed in the previous post, the EPO has been developing its own system, and its AI uses “state of the art deep learning network architectures.” We would like to see if the USPTO under the new administration issues any announcements on the examination policy on AI-related inventions or the use of AI-assisted examination system.
 


Below is a brief summary in Japanese.
 

日本国特許庁のAI に関する取り組み

by 尾上友紀

前回の記事ではEPOにおけるAI関連の取り組みについて触れておりましたが、ここではJPOでの近況として2点取り上げました。1)2021年1月20日に発表されたAI審査支援チームの発足、及び2)JPOにて開発された管理システム及び管理方法に関するPCT出願の公開、についてです。

1)においては、JPOの下記ウェブサイトで発表された通り、各審査部門におけるAI担当官及び管理職員等が決められ、担当分野を超えて連携するAI審査支援チームが設けられたことにつきレポート致しました。

https://www.jpo.go.jp/system/patent/gaiyo/sesaku/ai/ai_shutsugan_seibi.html

1)の最後の部分でコメントさせて頂いた内容は、各審査官がAI担当官に相談できるという体制に関連して、果たして出願人からAI担当官やAI審査支援チームにinvolveしてもらう、個別案件に関する意見を聞いてもらう、ということを審査官にリクエストできるのだろうかという点です。USPTOでは101条特許適格性のスペシャリストが存在し、スペシャリストの意見を聞いて欲しいと出願人から担当審査官にリクエストしたというケースがございます。JPOが同様な手続きを可能にすることを想定されているか否か、今回の発表からは分かりかねますが、いずれにしましてもAI出願審査のハブを作り知見を集約することは、一貫性のある審査を目指すために有効であろうと期待しております。

2)は、JPOで開発された特許文献検索システムや管理システムに関するPCT出願が先週2月4日に公開されたことについてのレポートです。JPOによる日本特許取得については2020年5月11日付で発表されました。

https://www.meti.go.jp/press/2020/05/20200511001/20200511001.html

今回その日本出願に優先権主張するPCT出願がWO2021/019831として公開され、International Search Report (ISR), Written Opinionと共に内容を確認できます。ISRにおいては関連性の高い従来文献は見出されておりません。国内段階移行後、他国特許庁でどのように審査が行われるかが注目されます。特に米国では特許適格性の問題があり、データの形式変換や統合に係る技術に基づいた請求項が提示された場合、精査を受けるのではないかと思われます。

2020年5月の発表によれば、この特許文献検索システム及び管理システム「アドパス」についてJPOは、特許に加えて商標の出願も行っております。2019年7月30日に「アドパス」と「ADPAS」について日本出願がなされ、「ADPAS」についてはマドリッド協定議定書による国際出願も2019年7月30日に行われ、同年8月6日に国際登録番号1492696 として登録されています。

 

上記の通り、AIを利用した審査システムの開発をリードしていきたいというJPOの積極的な姿勢が見られます。前回の記事ではEPOのAIも最新の深層学習ネットワークアーキテクチャを利用するものであるとのことでした。果たしてUSPTOからの反応は何かあるでしょうか。AI関連特許出願の審査方針やAIを利用した出願審査システムの利用などにつき発表が待たれます。