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U.S., U.K. announce program to fast-track patent apps

Posted: 17 Sep 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:trial program  patent examination processes  bilateral arrangements 

Patent offices in the United States and the United Kingdom announced a trial program last week geared to streamline the process of obtaining a patent in those countries. The so-called Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) will link fast-track patent examination processes in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.K. Intellectual Property Office.

Under the trial program, when either the USPTO or the UK-IPO accepts at least one claim in an application as patentable, the applicant may request that the other office fast-track the examination of the claim in corresponding applications. The goal is to enable the patent offices to leverage each other's work, speeding the patent examination process.

The trial is slated to run a year in an effort to gauge the program's effectiveness patent applicants' interest in it. The trial period could be shortened or lengthened accordingly.

The U.S. patent office saw a historic high of nearly 400,000 new applications in 2005 at a time when it was carrying a record backlog of about 620,000 applications. Some wait as long as six years before they are seen by an examiner.

The bilateral arrangements could help reduce the processing pipeline in some cases. They could also serve as stepping stones toward a broader, more ambitious goal of harmonising the patent system on a global basis.

"Our collective goal is to reduce duplication of work, speed up processing and improve quality," Jon Dudas, director of the USPTO, said in a prepared statement. "This pilot project with the UK-IPO builds on our work with the Japan Patent Office and contributes to a more rational international patent system."

"The PPH is a further step toward a global Patent Prosecution Highway network," said Ian Fletcher, chief executive of the UK-IPO. The U.S.-Japan collaboration "is already showing great promise," he added.

Rick Merritt
EE Times

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