Lately, there has been much talk in the blogosphere and in the news about H.R. 1908 being passed by the House of Representatives. As a result, even more attention is being heaped upon the patent reform bill pending in the Senate (S. 1145). One of the goals of each of these pieces of legislation is to bring the United States Patent system a little more in line with the rest of the world (i.e. the shift to a first-to-file patent system). Well, Tech LawForum would like to draw some of the attention away from Congress for the moment and point out that the PTO itself is doing what it can to play nice with the rest of the world. In the past two weeks, the PTO has begun two new initiatives to garner help abroad with the backlog, and encourage cooperation with two more countries’ patent offices. The first program is a Patent Prosecution Highway between the United Kingdom and the U.S. According to the USPTO’s press release

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The Patent Prosecution Highway will leverage fast-track patent examination in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. It also will permit each office to benefit from work previously done by the other office, in turn reducing examination workload and improving patent quality.

Basically, the Highway will allow claims that have been approved as patentable in one office to be fast tracked through prosecution in the other. The second program is one that will have the Swedish Patent and Registration Office (PRV) aiding the USPTO with search and examination services for the USPTO on international applications filed with the USPTO under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The press release announcing the program states:

Each year, the USPTO receives over 50,000 PCT international applications in addition to over 400,000 national applications. The USPTO is testing whether, by having international applications processed elsewhere, it can dedicate more resources to examining the approximately 750,000 national applications currently in the pipeline, with the goal of increasing productivity and enhancing quality.

When you look at these two programs in light of the cooperative efforts already in place with the Japanese Patent Office and the Australian Patent Office, its seems that the PTO is serious about trying to reduce their backlog problems even if the Patent Reform Act of 2007 isn’t passed. It is good to see that we are getting along so well with our friends across the pond and around the world.

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