The Trilateral Offices (European Patent Office (EPO), Japan Patent Office (JPO) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)) agreed on November 13, 2009 to begin a pilot program in the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) framework utilizing PCT work products (international search reports, written opinions, and international preliminary examination reports).
Under the PPH, an applicant receiving a determination from an office of first filing that claims in an application are allowable may request that the corresponding application filed at a second office be advanced out of turn for examination as to those allowable claims. To date, the PPH program, begun in 2006 and now the subject of bilateral agreements among a number of IP offices, has proved valuable in increasing efficiency (efficient, yes, for the second patent office; this procedure doesn’t accelerate examination in the first office).
Until now, the PPH program has been limited to cross-filings of national applications under the Paris Convention. This new agreement among the Trilateral Offices greatly expands the potential of the PPH program. By providing the re-use of positive results from PCT work products, the PPH will now be available to applicants using these offices.
It’s not clear at this point what effect, if any, the use of PCT work products will have in causing the EPO, JPO or USPTO to examine applications any sooner than they ordinarily would once they enter the national stage. The details of this new pilot program, scheduled to begin on January 29, 2010, will be available in the near future and posted at on the Trilateral website as well as at the respective websites of the Trilateral Offices.
In related news, the EPO and the JPO also announced on November 13, 2009 that they intend to launch a bilateral PPH pilot with effect of January 29, 2010.