Trilateral co-operation – working to make life easier for users

10 November 2011

This week, the EPO had the pleasure to host the annual Trilateral conference. We held it in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, with my counterparts David Kappos (USPTO) and Yoshiyuki Iwai (JPO) also attending. This was the 29th such event; the first one was organised back in 1983, which shows how quickly our three offices, accounting for 70% of patent filings worldwide, realised the need for enhanced mutual co-operation.

This gathering is a unique opportunity for easy and fruitful exchanges not only between the three offices’ teams but also with our respective industry representatives (BusinessEurope, JIPA, AIPLA and IPO). I am particularly grateful to BusinessEurope for co-organising the public conference, and to our friends from the US and Japan who came in number and took a very active part in the debates. Also, the hands-on involvement and extremely constructive approach of David Kappos and Yoshiyuki Iwai helped us all to reach agreements and make further progress.

The Trilateral framework is dedicated to the harmonisation of processes, practices and tools. At first sight, this may seem less important than discussions on patent-law harmonisation. But in fact it can have major effects on the daily work not only of the participating offices but also of our users. For instance, trilateral co-operation was the launch-pad for the Common Application Format, which can be used in all three offices, and the Priority Documents Exchange (PDX) network which facilitates the communication of data. It is also a very useful laboratory where new ideas such as the PPH-PCT pilot programme can be easily tested. During the “users’ day”, the business representatives raised in particular the quality metrics issue concerning our offices’ work.

This 29th conference also featured the announcement of a major breakthrough in patent-information IT tools: the Common Citation Document (CCD). There can be no doubt that this tool will have a dramatic impact on the daily work of our users: it will give them easy access, from the Trilateral website, to all the prior art cited by the three offices on parallel patent filings. It has the potential to save users a lot of time and money, and their representatives were really impressed by a result which goes well beyond what any of us expected.

Japan will host the 2012 conference, and given the ambitious programme set out in the MoU just signed by our three offices I am highly optimistic that next year we will have more good news to report.

Benoît Battistelli

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