United States and Australian Patent Offices Launch Pilot Project on International Search and Examination Services

Press Release

Brigid Quinn


Pilot Part of USPTO Effort to Reduce Backlog of U.S. National Patent Applications

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and IP Australia, Australia's national patent office, have initiated a pilot project to test the feasibility of IP Australia performing search and examination services for the USPTO on international applications filed with the USPTO under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The pilot, launched last week, is part of ongoing USPTO efforts to bring down the growing backlog of U.S. national patent applications waiting to be examined.

Each year, the USPTO receives nearly 50,000 PCT international applications in addition to over 350,000 national applications. The USPTO is testing whether, by having international applications processed elsewhere, it can dedicate more resources to examining the 600,000 national applications currently in the pipeline, with the goal of increasing productivity and enhancing quality.

Under the terms of the pilot project, IP Australia will process 100 PCT applications covering a wide range of technologies. The USPTO will review IP Australia's work to ensure that it meets USPTO standards for quality and accuracy.

"Efficient and high quality government operations are cornerstones of the President's Management Agenda and guiding principles for this effort," said Jon Dudas, under secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and director of the USPTO. "A large backlog is bad for U.S. innovation and bad for the U.S. economy. The ability to reallocate resources from PCT-related activities to search and examination of U.S. national applications will allow us to open another front in our battle to reduce our growing backlog."

Explaining the benefits of the project for his office, IP Australia Director General Dr. Ian Heath noted that "by assisting the USPTO to process applications filed under the PCT, IP Australia will continue to move towards its vision of being an office of choice." "This opportunity also provides a means for enhancing our international reputation as a quality International Search and Preliminary Examination Authority under the PCT, providing world-class intellectual property services which promote innovation, investment and international competitiveness for the benefit of all Australians," Dr. Heath said.

The PCT is an international agreement that simplifies the filing of patent applications in its 128 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.

The pilot project tracks recommendations in the USPTO "21st Century Strategic Plan" and builds on the long history of cooperation between the USPTO and IP Australia.

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