(Note the follow-up posting that this ISA choice is now available to US filers.)
Filers of PCT applications who file in RO/US will soon have the option to pick the Japanese Patent Office as their International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority.The announcement of this change may be seen in yesterday’s revision of the PCT Applicant Guide section for RO/US. It says that ISA/JP and IPEA/JP will be available to filers in RO/US starting on July 1, 2015.
To use ISA/JP, all claims of the PCT application must be:
directed to the field of green technology as defined by certain IPC classes.
The Search Fee will be $577 per invention.
IPEA/JP will be available to the US filer in a particular PCT application only if ISA/JP did the search in that PCT application. Preliminary Examination will cost about $413 per invention (a Preliminary Examination fee of ¥26000 and a handling fee of ¥24700).
The arrangement between RO/US and ISA/JP is rate-limited. During the first year (running from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) the limit is 300 applications per calendar quarter. During the second and third years (running from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018) the limit is 475 applications per calendar quarter. I expect USPTO will post something on its web site if the filings start getting close to the 300 or 475 limit in any current calendar quarter.
To use ISA/JP, the US filer must file the PCT application in English. Given that all filings in RO/US are required to be in English, this requirement will be easy to satisfy.