Trilateral Offices to Extend Work-sharing Initiatives

The Trilateral Offices have agreed on further work-sharing initiatives to enhance efficiency and quality.

The decisions came at a meeting of the Trilateral Strategic Working Group (SWG) in Munich this week, where representatives from the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) discussed common challenges.

The Group defined concrete mandates and agreed on a number of objectives for 2008. Specifically the three offices agreed to:

i)make mutual exploitation of work results the top priority for Trilateral co-operation;
ii)concentrate co-operation activities in selected technical areas, such as vehicle technology, in what is known as the iii)FOCUS approach, in order to build synergies between projects and evaluate the benefits of co-operation;
iv)begin accepting the Common Application Format (CAF) at all Trilateral offices at the beginning of 2009, allowing applicants to prepare a single application valid in Europe, the US and Japan; and
v)explain the goals of various projects to stakeholders.
A number of pilot projects on work-sharing will be launched later this year, including a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) comparable project between the EPO and USPTO, which promises faster processing of applications at the USPTO that have already been filed at the EPO.

The Strategic Handling of Applications for Rapid Examination or SHARE project, where offices give priority to examining applications for which they are the office of first filing, will also be implemented within the framework of the FOCUS approach.

The offices stressed that quality would play a vital role in the success of the work-sharing projects and agreed that the EPO would lead a study to identify best practices and develop a roadmap for quality management in the patent procedure.

Comprised of the EPO, the JPO and the USPTO, the Trilateral Co-operation was set up in 1983 to tackle challenges common to the three offices. The three offices agreed on a new governance structure last November, resulting in the formation of the SWG.