The "Big Fve Offices" Move Towards Closer Cooperation

The heads of the five largest patent offices have held a first joint meeting to exchange views and discuss enhanced co-operation in the field of patents. The two-day conference was held earlier in May in Honolulu/Hawaii and was chaired by John Dudas, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The heads of office - Alain Pompidou (EPO), Makoto Nakajima (Japan Patent Office), Tian Lipu (Commissioner, State Intellectual Property Office of China) and Sang-Woo Jun (Commissioner, Korean Intellectual Property Office) discussed workload, efficiency and quality issues that are affecting the world-wide patent system at the conference.

"I am very satisfied with the outcome of this meeting", EPO President Alain Pompidou said. "The atmosphere was very constructive, and everyone contributed to the outcome."

The five regions currently account for approximately 75% of the global filings, resulting in a growing interdependence between the patent systems at operational level. The workload question was central to the discussions, as the backlogs accumulated in the patent system produce knock-on effects in areas such as patent quality and the efficiency of patenting procedures.

Work sharing proposals, mainly concerning the question of how work done by one office could be utilised by the other offices, were therefore one of the main points of discussion. It was agreed that strengthening the PCT system should also be included in the proposals.

As regards patent quality, the five heads agreed that the quality levels and standards should be raised, and that quality should be given priority over application filing figures. The offices agreed to exchange best practices and to carry out benchmarking studies.

Other areas of discussion included electronic filing and processing of patent applications and patent information practices.

The offices agreed on a follow-up meeting, and on a long list of points of common interest, but did not decide on any further cooperation perspectives except for extending the Trilateral Statistics Group to include the Chinese and Korean offices as well.