Category of Invention in Japanese Patent Law

July 11, 2014

In Japanese Patent Law, an “invention” means the highly advanced creation of technical ideas utilizing the laws of nature (Article 2(1)).  In other words, an object to be protected in Japanese Patent Law is “the creation of technical ideas”. 
However, in actuality, claims should be expressed in either of the main two categories of invention: “a product” or “a process”.  In addition, as for “a process”, it can be more specified as “a pure process” or “a process for producing a product”.

What does the categorization of invention mean in Japanese patent law?

The most important point is that “working” and an effect of a patent is different according to the category in a claim. 
“Working” of each categorized invention is clearly defined and differs among the categories in Japanese Patent Law (Article 2(3)).  A patent right is the exclusive right to “work” the patented invention as a business (Article 68).  Therefore, a patent right has a different effect according to the category of a claim.

The following is a list of the categories of invention and corresponding “working” to each category.

Category of a claim

“Working” of an invention


Producing, using, assigning *1, etc. (assigning and leasing, and in the case where the product is a computer program, etc., including providing through an electric telecommunication line) exporting or importing, or offering for assignment, etc.(including displaying for the purpose of assignment, etc.) of a product


Pure Process

Using of a process

Process for producing a product

Using of a process;

Using, assigning, etc., exporting and importing, or offering for assignment, etc. the product produced by the process *2

*1 “Assigning” is typically realized as “sale” in an ordinary transaction.
*2 Using, importing, etc. can be an action for infringement of a process patent for manufacturing a product even when the product produced by the process is an indirect product (a product changed by subsequent processes or a trivial and nonessential component of another product).  For example, a process patent for producing synthetic fabric has an effect of injunction against imports not only of the fabric (the direct product) but also of the clothes made of the fabric (the indirect product).

* Please note that a third party’s working of a patented invention without authority can be an infringement of the patent right only when the working is done as “a business” in Japan.
In addition, retail sale of a product can be an action for infringement of a process patent.

A category of an invention is not just a matter of expression of a claim but sometimes a key point to determine the effect of the patented claim.  Therefore, claim drafting in consideration of the category in Japanese Patent Law is very important when filing a patent application in Japan.

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