US, Japanese and European patent offices take stock of 30 years of cooperation

20 November 2012

In Kyoto last week, the Trilateral Offices (JPO, USPTO and EPO) celebrated the 30th anniversary of their cooperation. This was an occasion to review some of the projects completed since the Trilateral’s inception. The EPO and the USPTO also took the opportunity to update on the Cooperative Patent Classification, which will enter into force on 1 January 2013. This major project is the outcome of a determined joint effort, and both partners are committed to ensuring its smooth implementation next year.

As at previous Trilateral meetings, a user day was held with representatives of industry from the three regions. These discussions proved so useful that the session with users will be extended from an afternoon to a full day at the next meeting. User feedback is an essential input for rebalancing our procedures and defining new tools.

In this connection, users often speak of the need to optimise the timeliness of the grant process. This is not only a matter for patent offices: applicants, too, have a part to play in ensuring that procedures are completed in reasonable time. Nevertheless, the patent-granting authorities have developed a variety of acceleration schemes. The EPO’s PACE programme, which has been available for many years, is one of the most user-friendly schemes of this kind. PACE can be requested for the acceleration of a patent application in any technical field, at any stage of the proceedings and with no extra fee. Last year, it facilitated the acceleration of 14 500 products (5 700 searches and 8 800 examinations).

Another acceleration scheme, the PPH, has been developed at global level since 2006 and currently involves around 20 participant Offices. PPH requests at present are mainly from the US and Japan, which account for 84% of the total. A PCT-PPH is already available, but to improve the situation further, the EPO has suggested that PCT applications be considered automatically qualified for acceleration if the applicants so wish. Acceleration would no longer depend on the conclusion of bilateral agreements between patent offices. This would make the PPH more inclusive and open to all applicants, as is the case with PACE.

The next Trilateral Heads meeting will be held in the autumn of 2013. In the meantime, the work of the teams from the three Offices will continue, in close coordination with the IP5 projects.

BenoƮt Battistelli

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Categories: International co-operation, Patents

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