Signature on Power of Attorney no longer required in Japan

Signature on Power of Attorney no longer required in Japan

Summary:

Power of Attorney to be submitted before the Japan Patent Office:

  • Signature on the document is no longer required; and
  • Mailing to Japanese representative is no longer required

Background:

(1) Traditional seal usage in Japan

As you may know, in Japan, we routinely stamp our seal “Hanko” on documents. Each of Japanese companies and individuals has various types of seals and we register at least one of them as a certified seal to be used for important documents, such as contracts. It is said that Japan is the only country in the world that uses a seal registration system.

(2) Harmful effect of “Hanko” under COVID-19 pandemic

Under the circumstances, on December 28, 2020, ministerial ordinance was revised, and the Japan Patent Office announced that Hanko (seals) are no longer required for 690 procedures, including Power of Attorney document, among about 800 procedures. This means, for overseas applicants who do not use Hanko, it is no longer required to execute the Power of Attorney document.

The Government of Japan has aimed for digital transformation recent years, but the progress to digitalization was extremely slow.

Even under the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese workers had to go to the office only to put Hanko on documents. The use of Hanko was surely an obstacle to teleworking. The below article explains the situation in Japan.

The japan times: Traditional Japanese seal system hampers telework

Hence, the digital transformation in Japan was necessitated and suddenly proceeded at a rapid pace to break away from the traditional seal usage. The Government of Japan implemented regulatory reform to proceed with digitalization of paperwork requiring Hanko seals.

Digitalization at the Japan Patent Office:

As you may know, there is a rule in Japanese patent law about unintentional missing of deadlines.  It covers the deadline to file a PCT national phase entry into Japan.

However, in general, the reasons are very restricted and the chance of success in getting permission from the JPO for the late filing after the deadline already lapsed is extremely low.  

Power of Attorney document in Japan:

In the following, we focus on the Power of Attorney document to be filed at the time of filing a PCT national phase entry into Japan. Please note that some Power of Attorney documents may still require signature thereon.

Previously, when we receive instructions from an overseas client to enter the national phase in Japan with respect to a PCT application, we asked the applicant to have a General Power of Attorney duly executed and return the original copy to us by mail. Unlike the other countries, the Japan Patent Office did not accept an electronic copy of the Power of Attorney.

However, from now on, neither signature nor mailing is required. That means, we prepare a Power of Attorney document in WORD format and ask our client to simply fill in the blank (PRINT or TYPE) in the document and return it to us via e-mail. We will print out the document and submit it with the Japan Patent Office, since they still require a hard (paper) copy (I know this seems to be strange, but this is the right way…). Please not that your name and/or date should not be written by hand. Otherwise, we will have to ask you to mail the original copy to us the same as before.

The reason why we did not immediately change our procedures was that it was not completely certain whether each formality examiner could deal with the new procedures. We thought we should wait and see the examiners’ reaction to be on the safe side, and after discussions with the examiners in several cases, we have decided to make the transition to the new procedures.

We were often asked by our overseas clients if an electronic copy of PoA document was acceptable, and some of them did not want to mail the original copy. We believe that the preparation of a Power of Attorney document in Japan is now much easier than before under the new procedures.

Power of Attorney to be submitted before the Japan Patent Office:

  • Signature on the document is no longer required; and
  • Mailing to Japanese representative is no longer required

We hope the above information and explanation are clear and sufficient for you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@allegropat.com.

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