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25th Annual Trilateral Conference

Friday, November 09, 2007

Leaders of the Trilateral Patent Offices Sign Memorandum of Understanding

U.S., Europe, and Japan Further Their Coordination, Cooperation and Harmonization Efforts

Alexandria, VA - Heads of the Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate work sharing; develop a means to improve quality of applications; coordinate electronic business developments; harmonize or standardize search strategies, tools and procedures; and promote dissemination of patent information. This conference marks the 25th Annual meeting of the three offices, known as the Trilateral Offices, continuing the cooperative effort that began in 1983. The meeting was held at the USPTO in Alexandria, Va.

"Over the past quarter century, trilateral cooperation has resulted in significant progress. We look forward to doing even more. Our offices intend to strengthen cooperative efforts in ways that promote innovation and focus on 21st-century realities by reducing redundancies, streamlining processes, and encouraging quality applications," noted Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jon Dudas. "By working together, our efforts to address common global workload challenges will meet with success."

The focus of the Trilateral Conference was to address global workload challenges resulting from growth and complexity of patent applications and to identify mechanisms for improving quality of applications. More than half of the world’s patent applications are filed in the Trilateral Offices.

Trilateral agreements reached include:

In the area of work sharing, the offices will enhance trilateral cooperation to develop comprehensive solutions for reutilizing work results of the other offices to the maximum extent practicable, including the possible implementation of a pilot project to test the feasibility of each office prioritizing the search and examination of applications for which it was the office of first filing. One of the first actions of this comprehensive plan will be implemented in January 2008, when the USPTO and the JPO will permanently implement the Patent Prosecution Highway that they have been piloting since July 2006.

Under the Patent Prosecution Highway, an applicant receiving a ruling from either the JPO or the USPTO that at least one claim in an application is patentable may request that the other office fast track the examination of corresponding claims in corresponding applications. The Patent Prosecution Highway will leverage fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices to allow applicants in both countries to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently.

The offices agreed on a common application format which will simplify and streamline application filing requirements in each office to allow applicants to prepare a single application in the common application format for acceptance in each of the three offices.

The offices also agreed to undertake a comprehensive approach to technology focused cooperation in examination. This approach will include collaboration among examiners; development of comparative studies; development of search guidelines; exploration of use of common search tools to facilitate common search techniques and resources; and continual collaboration after the development of products. This approach will be instrumental in developing applicant and office practices for improving application quality.

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