On January 24, 2007, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and IP Australia agreed to extend a project under which IP Australia provides search and examination services on international patent applications filed with the USPTO under provisions of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
This agreement is a continuation of the project launched between the two offices in 2005, and is scheduled to begin on March 1, 2007 and run 12 months.
Cooperation on PCT search and examination work is part of the USPTO's ongoing efforts to improve examination efficiency and quality, while reducing the growing backlog of U.S. national patent applications waiting to be examined. USPTO found that the quality and accuracy of the work done by IP Australia during phase one warrants extending the project and increasing the number of applications it processes.
In this phase of the project, IP Australia will process up to 1,200 PCT applications over the course of one year, covering a range of technologies. The USPTO will continue to review IP Australia's work to ensure that it meets USPTO standards for quality and accuracy.
"High quality and timely examination of patent applications advances science and technology and creates the certainty innovators need in capital driven markets," noted Jon Dudas, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. "A growing backlog is detrimental to U.S. innovation and the economy. This project builds on the long history of cooperation between the USPTO and IP Australia and gives us the ability to open another front in our battle to reduce our growing backlog."
IP Australia's Director General, Ian Heath explained why IP Australia was pleased to sign up to a new phase of the project, "Participation in this project is a significant opportunity for IP Australia to move closer to its vision of being an office of choice and for enhancing its international reputation. It represents a further step towards achieving the goal of reducing re-work between offices and making mutual exploitation of work a reality for the ultimate benefit of Australian innovators and the IP system as a whole."
Each year, the USPTO receives about 50,000 international PCT applications in addition to nearly 450,000 national applications. Cooperation with IP Australia will allow the USPTO to dedicate more resources to examining the over 800,000 national applications currently in the pipeline, with the goal of increasing productivity and enhancing quality.
The PCT is an international agreement that simplifies the filing of patent applications in its 135 member states. A PCT application may be used as a national application for a patent in any of the designated PCT countries. International applicants request PCT search and examination reports to help them determine if an application meets basic patent criteria before committing to the high cost of translating and filing an application in one or more PCT countries. The USPTO and IP Australia are among the national patent offices authorized to conduct PCT searches and examinations.