The Japanese Patent Numbering SystemBy

The Japanese Patent Numbering System

A Japanese figural ceramic teapot has a thick, clear glaze which is uniformly and heavily crazed suggesting that it is old, but just how old? The seller says the Japanese toy dates to the 1920s but how can you be sure? With increased interest in pre-World War II Japanese ceramics and toys, it is becoming increasingly important to establish accurate dates for Japanese made products. This article introduces the Japanese patent system which helps establish approximate production dates for original Japanese collectibles and can help you avoid recently made reproductions.

The Japanese patent numbering system began in 1885 and has four categories; patent, utility, design and trademark. For antique research purposes, the patent category applies to invented objects and devices. A utility patent is granted for an improvement to an object or device that has already been patented. The design category focuses on the aesthetics of visual appearance of the thing including shape, color and color pattern. Trademarks apply to distinct letters, characters, symbols and logos that can be identified with a particular object or company. A trademark may also be color specific.

Invention patents appear in Table 1. The other three categories of patents appear in Table 2. The number by each year is the beginning number issued for that year. But remember, a patent number (from any country) can not pin point the exact date an object was made. It can only give you the period in which it was made. Why? An object has to have been made after the date the patent number was granted. Patent numbers in most countries remain in force for an average of about 15 years. Therefore, an object with a patent number granted in 1900 could have been made anywhere between 1900 and 1915. Check the patent laws for a particular country to obtain filing dates for specific patents for more precise dating. Also check to see if any extensions were granted which would extend the life of the original patent.

As a case in point for a Japanese example, take the mark shown in Fig. 1. It is marked "PAT NO 63207." The wording "PAT NO" firmly states that this is indeed a patent number and not one of the other three categories of patents (utility, design or trademark). From Table 1, you can find that patent number 63207 was granted in 1928. That means this piece could have been made any time between 1928 and the outbreak of WW II (1928 + 15 years).

If the words "PAT" or "Patent" do not appear with the number, you'll need to decide what other category to look under--design, utility or trademark. Just use the guidelines given in the second paragraph of this article and you shouldn't have any trouble.

To research a Japanese patent number, write to: Japanese Patent Office, 3-4-3 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan. Telephone (03) 3581-1101. The author wishes to thank Makoto Ueda, Deputy Executive Director, Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) for the primary research information provided. JETRO has branches in most major North American Cities.

Table 1

Japanese Patent Numbers

Arranged by year (left column). The number in the right column shows the first patent number assigned that year. EXAMPLE: the patent number 103328 was assigned in 1936.

1885 1 1930 70939 1975 660162
1886 100 1931 75915 1976 706890
1887 305 1932 80233 1977 747207
1888 414 1933 85079 1978 799815
1889 597 1934 90581 1979 845319
1890 806 1935 95254 1980 889423
1891 1046 1936 100020 1981 935529
1892 1413 1937 104856 1982 986433
1893 1792 1938 109471 1983 1037034
1894 2110 1939 114314 1984 1091735
1895 2436 1940 120227 1985 1153535
1896 2664 1941 126943 1986 1203635
1897 2833 1942 133629 1987 1263535
1898 3021 1943 141606 1988 1325935
1899 3314 1944 147988 1989 1381235
1900 3611 1945 156324 1990 1444536
1901 4197 1946 158664
1902 4803 1947 161068
1903 5674 1948 162124
1904 6878 1949 164009
1905 8131 1950 167949
1906 9385 1951 172221
1907 11029 1952 178490
1908 13071 1953 183976
1909 15126 1954 189782
1910 16994 1955 196852
1911 18763 1956 205409
1912 21035 1957 214839
1913 22809 1958 224652
1914 24830 1959 234624
1915 26654 1960 244902
1916 28436 1961 256154
1917 30233 1962 277100
1918 31681 1963 292803
1919 33334 1964 316106
1920 35349 1965 339806
1921 37510 1966 366711
1922 41103 1967 393026
1923 44107 1968 413799
1924 46238 1969 441771
1925 48166 1970 469428
1926 53254 1971 500307
1927 56774 1972 536754
1928 61145 1973 578208
1929 65849 1974 620536
Table 2
Japanese Utility, Design & Trademark Numbers
Arranged by year (left column). The number in the right column shows the first patent number assigned that year.

Utility

Design

Trademark

1889 - 1 1
1890 - 23 2919
1895 - 393 6169
1900 - 834 13824
1905 1 2281 23384
1910 16073 5580 39575
1915 34227 11164 70875
1920 51222 17763 112025
1925 75387 24590 161060
1930 128434 45778 215483
1935 194928 69287 274925
1940 269853 92608 355145
1945 343723 100432 403881
1950 358024 104193 426420
1955 411395 128189 516583
1960 494051 182881 622841
1965 634802 256909 750510
1970 772386 337673 936967
1975 946266 449159 1276227
1980 1193280 624960 1735643
1985 1462285 786967 2185702
1990 1683285 961265 2779671
images

Japanese patent number 63207 dates from 1928.