The world’s five big patent offices have announced that they are going to work more closely together to co-ordinate their examinations of equivalent patent applications for the same invention.
The so-called IP5 group, including the patent offices of Europe, the US, China, Japan and Korea, is to launch a pilot scheme in January, which will allow patent applications to be to be dealt with more quickly and cheaply in one office if an equivalent patent has already been accepted at another.
The IP5 Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) should cut waiting times and repetition, and more importantly it should allow applicants who have filed in two or more of these territories to obtain their rights far more cheaply.
As anyone who has applied to patent an invention in different parts of the world will know, it is a very long winded and complex process. This is particularly so when patent examiners take a different approach each time, leading to all kinds of alternative arguments for patentability having to be put forward at different times.
The US patent office in particular will regularly reach a very different conclusion to that reached by the European patent office or the Chinese patent office.
It is possible to accelerate the prosecution of any patent application already, but if applicants will now be able to formally do so on the basis of results elsewhere, then it could eliminate a large chunk of the work which would otherwise be involved, in particular if an accepted European patent application can lead to prompt acceptance of equivalent applications in the US and China.
A Patent Prosecution Highway has been in existence between the European patent office and the US patent office for some years, but its take-up has been very low. Hopefully, the addition of China, Japan and Korea into the mix will really encourage applicants to partake of the scheme, and either save money, or obtain greater geographic coverage for the same cost as before.
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