This is the second in a series on Asian patenting (see my initial survey).
In 2000 Japan made up 12,122, or 10% of the total, of published WO “World” patent applications. By 2009 this had climbed to 46,698, or 19%.
Over 303,000 patent applications were published in Japan itself in 2009. Most of these were by residents – only 9000 cited American priority filings, and 530 British filings. They (and the publications in the World system) are of course in Japanese. The problem then is in identifying and reading them.
Some do appear in translation. Patent applications of Japanese origin that go through the European Patent system appear mostly in English (German and French are the other options) and only accounted for some 19,000 documents in 2009. In the US system, they accounted for 64,000 published applications in 2009 – just 21% of those published in Japan.
If you know the actual specification number, you can go to the Patent & Utility Model Gazette database. It can be a little tricky entering the numbers -- the European Patent Office offers advice on the numeration and coding.
Generally, the A or Kokai numbers is what is known/ wanted. Just seeing the drawings can be very helpful. However, there is more. Instead of going straight to the Japanese, after a time-lag to prepare English abstracts, what you get instead is a summary. Above it is given
DETAIL JAPANESE LEGAL STATUS
"Japanese" leads of course to the Japanese text, while legal status is obvious (and useful). “Detail” in fact means the ability to machine translate the specification (in portions, not all at once). It's fun and instructive to try it for yourself. Sometimes the English is a little odd, but as a machine is translating it it’s not bad – and all free.
Alternatively, if you don’t have the specification number you can search using the Patent Abstracts of Japan (PAJ).
Its coverage goes back to 1976, and there are gaps in technical fields (such as toys) before 1989. Words or applicant names can be used. “Index indication” is the list of hits. It links through in the same way to the “Detail” capability.
An alternative is to use the Espacenet database with its international coverage. Asking for JP as a publication number limits the search to Japanese documents. The same PAJ abstracts are available, but there is no link through to the translation capability. However, a foreign “equivalent” (usually in English) is shown by a PDF icon.
At the time of writing, English titles were available before mid-June, and English abstracts before the end of May, sometimes into June. So there is a three or four month delay. Names of applicants were generally available from the end of June (there were exceptions) while IPC classes were only available from before the end of August. All these present problems for those looking for timely data on Japanese-origin inventions.
All this is of course just a brief summary of some key points. There is more on the searching page from the European Patent Office, including how to use Japanese language interfaces.