China: 专利审查指南第三次修改介绍

 专利审查指南第三次修改介绍

Mar 6, 2017 By 魏小薇,柳冀

国家知识产权局于2017年3月1日公布了修改〈专利审查指南〉的决定 1,新修改的审查指南将自2017年4月1日起施行。这是继2013年 2 和2014年3 进行的两次实质内容调整后的第三次修改。此次修改涉及到了与商业模式、计算机程序有关的授权主题的审查、申请日后提交的实验数据的审查、以及无效宣告程序的修改方式调整等热点问题。下文是中国国际贸易促进委员会专利商标事务所就这些热点内容为尊敬的客户准备的简要说明和专业意见。

提要

对《指南》第二部分第一章的修改 – 商业方法相关的发明成为可授权主题.

对《指南》第二部分第九章的修改 – 软硬件定义的介质权利要求和装置权利要求成为可授权主题.

对《指南》第二部分第十章的修改 – 申请日后补充的实验数据将予以考虑.

对《指南》第四部分的修改 - 无效宣告的审查程序中更灵活的修改方式.

对《指南》第五部分的修改 – 公众可访问的审查信息.

对《指南》第二部分第一章的修改 – 商业方法相关的发明成为可授权主题

近年来,以互联网技术为代表的计算机技术的发展有效推动了各行业商业模式的创新。为了满足创新主体对与计算机技术结合的新的商业模式(例如与互联网技术结合的新的商业模式)的创新成果的专利保护需求,鼓励此类商业模式创新,审查指南修改明确了"涉及商业模式的权利要求,如果既包含商业规则和方法的内容,又包含技术特征,则不应当依据专利法第二十五条排除其获得专利权的可能性"。由此,审查指南修改意图澄清,只要包含技术特征,一项方案就不应仅因其涉及商业模式而被排除在专利保护客体之外。

相应地,审查指南修改删除了原本不属于专利保护的客体的一个例子(即例9),该例子涉及一种利用计算机程序来辅助进行外语学习的系统。该不属于专利保护的客体的例子的删除表明今后对于专利保护客体的审查将不会像以往那样僵化,而是会综合考虑技术特征在整个商业方法方案中所起到的作用。

在涉及商业模式或商业方法的专利申请的撰写和审查意见通知书的答复中,建议申请人尽量强调技术特征、该技术特征在整个方案中解决的技术问题以及该技术特征在解决该技术问题时所起到的作用。

对《指南》第二部分第九章的修改 – 软硬件定义的介质权利要求和装置权利要求成为可授权主题

根据在先前的审查实践,计算机程序以及特征仅在于计算机程序的载体(计算机可读存储介质)属于不可授予专利权的客体。此次审查指南修改强调了不属于专利保护客体的计算机可读存储介质仅仅是"仅由所记录的程序本身限定的计算机可读存储介质","本身"二字意图将代码化的指令序列与全部或部分基于程序处理流程的解决方案区分开。换言之,如果计算机可读存储介质中所存储的计算机程序体现的是解决技术问题的技术方案,则该计算机可读存储介质属于可授予专利权的客体。

审查指南修改还规定了,当涉及计算机程序的发明写成装置权利要求时,该装置的组成部分"不仅可以包括硬件,还可以包括软件",并且将"功能模块"修改为"程序模块"以更好体现这些模块的技术属性。因此,根据审查指南修改,涉及计算机程序的装置权利要求不再被限制为写成"模块+功能"的形式,而是例如"处理器+存储有计算机程序指令的存储器"的其他权利要求撰写形式也可以被接受。

与之前的审查实践相比,此次审查指南修改使得对涉及计算机程序的发明的专利保护客体和撰写形式的要求与美国的相关规定更加接近,具有重大的意义。

综上,对于涉及计算机程序的发明,建议申请人根据实际需要而撰写多种主题和撰写形式的权利要求,权利要求的主题和撰写形式可以包括:包括各个步骤的方法;计算机可读存储介质,其上存储有执行各个步骤的计算机程序指令;包括执行各个方法步骤的模块的装置;以及至少包括处理器和存储器的装置,其中存储器中存储有在运行在处理器上时能够执行各个方法步骤的计算机程序指令。

对《指南》第二部分第十章的修改 – 申请日后补充的实验数据将予以考虑

如何看待申请日后补充的实验数据一直是困扰一些化学领域发明审查的难题。尤其是,此前专利审查指南在第二部分第十章明确规定,"申请日之后补交的实施例和实验数据"在判断充分公开问题时"不予考虑"。国家知识产权局认识到了上述措辞一定程度上产生了误导作用,令人认为审查员对于补充的实验数据看也不看、审也不审。

为澄清审查标准,审查指南修改删除了上述表述,代之以"申请日后补交的实验数据,审查员应当予以审查"。

同时,审查指南修改仍然坚持了充分公开问题的判断原则,即,判断说明书是否充分公开,应当以原说明书和权利要求书记载的内容为准。这一原则是先申请制的体现,即所有的审查,包括充分公开的审查,都应当以原说明书和权利要求书的内容为基础。

为了体现这一判断原则,对于申请日后补交的实验数据,审查指南修改规定,所述补交的实验数据所证明的技术效果,应当是所属领域技术人员能够从专利申请公开的内容中得到的。上述措辞强调判断的主体是所属领域的技术人员,判断的依据是原申请公开的内容,判断的对象是补充的实验数据所主张的技术效果而非数据本身,从而避免了判断的机械和僵化。也就是说,审查员应当避免过分关注实验数据、实验方法是否一致这样的形式问题,而应当站位本领域技术人员来判断技术效果是否一致。

对《指南》第四部分的修改 - 无效宣告的审查程序中更灵活的修改方式

对于无效宣告的审查程序,本次审查指南修改涉及两个方面:其一涉及对修改方式的进一步放开,另一涉及相应地无效理由的增加。

一直以来,根据专利审查指南,无效宣告审查程序中允许专利权人进行的修改方式一般限于权利要求的删除、合并和技术方案的删除。审查指南修改中,将权利要求合并的方式删除,代之以权利要求的进一步限定,与此同时增加明显错误的修正的修改方式。

此处"权利要求的进一步限定"限于在权利要求中补入其他权利要求中记载的一个或多个技术特征,而仍然不允许根据说明书记载的内容对权利要求进行修改。显然,国知局力求在保障专利权人的权益和不损害社会公众的信赖利益之间寻求合理的平衡。

关于明显错误的修正,由于现行专利法实施细则的限制,本次审查指南修改并不允许专利权人对说明书中存在的明显错误进行修正。当出现该情况时,专利权人可以对权利要求书中出现的明显错误进行修正。在该修正得到审查部门认可之后,专利局复审委员会可以根据实施细则第五十八条对说明书进行相应的更正。

针对专利权人以删除以外的方式修改权利要求,请求人可以在指定期限内针对修改内容增加无效宣告理由。此处"删除以外的方式"既包括"权利要求的进一步限定",也包括"明显错误的修正"。

此前指南规定,在专利权人进行合并式修改后,请求人可以在指定期限内增加无效理由。对此有一种误解,认为一旦专利权人进行了合并式修改,则请求人可以全面补充无效理由。在本次审查指南修改中,明确了专利权人进行删除以外的方式后,请求人只能针对修改内容增加无效宣告理由。这与一直以来的审查标准是一致的。

另外,此前指南规定专利权人进行合并式修改或者提交反证后,请求人可以在指定期限内补充证据。本次审查指南修改删除了针对合并式修改(即修改后的"权利要求的进一步限定")方式下补充证据的情况。其理由是,权利要求的进一步限定的修改方式是在权利要求书记载范围内进行的修改,没有超出授权权利要求的范围,因此请求人不需要补充新的证据,只需要调整证据的组合方式即可。

对《指南》第五部分的修改 – 公众可访问的审查信息

为贯彻国务院71号文件 4 中"依法及时公开专利审查过程中信息"的要求,同时顺应Global Dossier审查信息共享的趋势,此次指南的修改也涉及第五部分第四章的有关内容。审查指南修改包括三个方面:

一、对于已经公布但尚未公告授予专利权的发明专利申请案卷,可以查阅和复制的案卷信息,从时间上讲,由此前的"直到公布日为止"扩大到还包括实质审查程序的信息;从内容上讲,扩大到包括在实质审查程序中向申请人发出的通知书、检索报告和决定书。但是,申请人对审查意见通知书的答复以及对权利要求书的修改没有包括在内。

二、相应地,对于已经公告授予专利权的专利申请案卷,可以查阅和复制的内容也包括了检索报告。

三、此外,由于指南该章第5.2节之(1)已经对允许查阅和复制的内容进行了规定,因此删除了此前"除上述内容外,其它文件不得查阅或者复制"的措辞。

1 2017.03.01公布的局令第74号

2 2013.09.16公布的局令第67号

3 2014.3.12公布的局令第68号

4 《关于新形势下加快知识产权强国建设的若干意见》

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