The Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) announced today that they have launched a free service that will allow the two offices to electronically exchange patent application priority documents and help further streamline the patent application process. The new service is the result of a 2006 agreement between the USPTO and the JPO.
"Streamlining the patent application process benefits all users of the system and reduces costs," noted Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Jon Dudas. "This partnership with our JPO colleagues demonstrates how cooperation by and among offices can result in material improvements for innovators."
Priority documents have to be filed when applicants wish to claim an earlier application filing date in one patent office based on a prior filing in another. Claiming priority is a valuable tool for businesses wanting to pursue patent rights globally.
Under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, a treaty that provides a number of important rights for innovators, a patent applicant may file an application in one Paris Convention member country (the priority document), and within 12 months, file corresponding applications in other member countries, while obtaining the benefit of the first application's filing date. This 12-month period allows applicants to make important decisions about where to file subsequent applications to seek protection for their inventions. Paris Convention filings are a critical component in many applicants' global business and patenting strategies and represent a substantial portion of worldwide patent activity. In order to obtain the benefit of an earlier filing, however, applicants are generally required to file paper copies of the priority document in each of the later-filing offices at their own expense. The new service will allow the USPTO and JPO, with appropriate permissions, to obtain electronic copies of priority documents filed with the other office from its electronic records management system at no cost to the applicant.
This electronic exchange of copies of priority documents promotes sharing of information between the intellectual property offices and reduces the administrative costs associated with handling paper copies of priority documents and scanning them into the offices' electronic image record management systems.
Forms and instructions for using this free service are available on the USPTO's website: http://www.uspto.gov/web/forms/index.xml#patent. For further information, see Federal Register Notice: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/72fr1664.pdf.