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Prior art searches

What is prior art search?

More than 300,000 new pieces of patent-related information are generated every year in Japan alone. There are various technologies in the world. The purpose of a prior art search is to investigate a huge amount of technical information to find the targeted prior art.

In the patent examination process, the JPO conducts a prior art search to check if the invention claimed in an application satisfies the patentability requirements such as novelty and inventive step.

Prior art search as a registered search organization

The JPO outsources prior art search to registered search organizations and conducts patent examination based on the search results in order to efficiently handle a large number of applications.
The IPCC, as a registered search organization, mainly conducts prior art searches based on domestic and foreign patent documents. To conduct a search, the IPCC accesses JPO’s patent document search system for searching and screening documents. When the IPCC delivers search results to the JPO, IPCC staff members explain the results to patent examiners in person in order to improve the IPCC’s service quality by ensuring a mutual understanding and to facilitate the patent examination process.

Increasing global prior art searches

Thanks to the JPO’s effort to shorten the FA period (time before First Action), the number FA pending cases has reduced tremendously. The number of prior art searches conducted by the IPCC has been on the decline from the peak level in FY2010.
On the other hand, in prior art searches in today’s global economy, foreign patent document searches have become increasingly important. In FY2013, the JPO started offering “Foreign patent document search option.”
The use of this option has been increasing year by year. In FY2015, the number of prior art searches commissioned to the IPCC recorded a significant increase.
In order to establish a global intellectual property system, the amount of outsourced work related to “Foreign patent document search option” is expected to increase, which will enable the IPCC to play a greater role in the future.

Number of prior art searches (in each FY)