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WASHINGTON - The Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office, and the Japan Patent Office -- collectively referred to as the Trilateral Offices -- today entered into a series of bilateral agreements to expand the existing Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) work share program. These new PPH agreements between the Trilateral Offices will use international search reports, written opinions, and international preliminary examination reports developed within the framework of the international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) will greatly expand the availability of the PPH program.
PPH agreements streamline the patent system and promote expeditious and high-quality patent examination among participating offices by allowing patent examiners to avail themselves of work product from other patent offices. Under existing PPH agreements, an applicant receiving an allowable determination from one patent office on at least one claim in an application may request that the corresponding application filed with another office advance for faster examination. By coordinating patentable results between both nations' offices, applicants can expect to obtain patents in both nations more quickly.
Until now, the PPH program has been limited to the utilization of search and examination results of national applications between cross filings under the Paris Convention. These new agreements greatly expand the potential of the PPH program. By permitting a Trilateral Office to draw upon the positive examination result from the PCT work product from another Trilateral Office, the PPH will now be available to a larger number of applicants. This will make it easier and quicker for a patent applicant to obtain patent protection in certain other countries.
"The Patent Prosecution Highway is one of our key work sharing vehicles, and this agreement will add a new dimension to it," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. "By expanding it for use in the PCT framework, we create an opportunity to increase its benefits to both users and offices, while strengthening the PCT system itself."
Enhancing the PPH program is an important element of Director Kappos' commitment to expand the agency's work sharing efforts. The details of this new pilot program, planned to begin on January 29, 2010, will be posted at www.uspto.gov.