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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) announced today that on July 3, 2006 they are launching a new trial cooperation initiative called the Patent Prosecution Highway. The Patent Prosecution Highway will leverage fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. It also will permit each office to benefit from work previously done by the other office, in turn reducing examination workload and improving patent quality.
"This pilot project represents an important first step toward our goal of reducing duplication of searching through work-sharing," said Jon Dudas, U.S. under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. "As the USPTO and patent offices throughout the world deal with an ever-increasing workload, we must find ways to streamline processing and avoid redundancy through cooperative efforts such as the Patent Prosecution Highway. We look forward to a successful trial run of this program."
"The Patent Prosecution Highway is an important element in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry/U.S. Department of Commerce Initiative, which was issued on March 30, 2006 by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez and Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshihiro Nikai," said Makoto Nakajima, commissioner of the Japan Patent Office. "The Patent Prosecution Highway is a significant first step in the cooperative efforts to support U.S. and Japanese industries for their global patent-obtaining activities."
Under the Patent Prosecution Highway, an applicant receiving a ruling from either the JPO or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office fast track the examination of corresponding claims in corresponding applications. Full requirements for participation in the trial program can be found at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/dapp/opla/preognotice/pph_pp.pdf.
The purpose of the trial program is to gauge the interest of applicants and determine if the program improves quality and efficiency and reduces the workload at each agency. The trial period is set to expire July 3, 2007, but may be extended for up to one year or terminated earlier depending on volume of activity and other factors. Both offices will provide notice of any adjustment in the trial period.