UK signs patent report deal with Japan

British and Japanese patent applications could save up to two years because of a new agreement signed between the countries' patent offices, and a similar deal is in negotiation with the US Patents and Trade Marks Office.

The UK and Japanese offices will share patent examination reports in a new pilot project which is similar to one already operated by Japan and the US. The UK Patent Office has signed a deal with the Japanese Patent Office called the Patent Prosecution Highway which aims to increase efficiency in the UK and in Japan.

The scheme allows anyone who has received a patent examination report by the UK Patent Office to receive accelerated examination of that application from the Japanese office, and vice versa.

The Patent Office estimates that the scheme will speed up the awarding of patents by two years. It also claims that the re-use of existing work on a patent application will increase the quality of examinations.

"I am pleased that the UK Patent Office and the Japan Patent Office have reached this historic agreement," said the UK minister for science and innovation Malcolm Wicks. "The Patent Prosecution Highway will speed up the examination of patent applications in both countries, leading to a more efficient and effective service to customers. I hope it will be used as a model for international cooperation elsewhere."

The scheme will begin operating in July 2007 and will operate initially for a year. "The aim of the pilot will be to test applicant demand for this additional option for speeding up examination of patent applications, and to quantify the quality and efficiency gains to be expected," said a Patent Office statement.

"Other options for speeding up the examination procedure already exist, but these require the applicant to provide particular and adequate reasons in each individual case. Under the PPH, the applicant would be guaranteed faster treatment by simply submitting work already carried out by the other patent office," said the Patent Office statement.

The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, which reported its Treasury-commissioned findings in December, recommended the establishment of work sharing arrangements between the Patent Office and international bodies.

The Patent Office said that it is in negotiation with the US Patent and Trade Marks Office about a similar deal, which could be launched later this year.