Faster, cheaper patents

January 28, 2008 marked the beginning of a one-year trial of the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot project between the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Under the PPH, an applicant with allowable claims in either a US or Canadian patent application, may request that the other country's patent office provide a fast track examination to the corresponding application (click here for an overview on the PPH). The sharing of examination information between offices is intended to expedite and improve the quality of examination.

The highway appears to be a one-way street thus far. By April 30 (the end of the first quarter) CIPO had received 60 PPH requests for expedited examination and estimated that 100 PPH requests were made by the end of May. In contrast, the USPTO received no PPH requests by the end of the first quarter. A disparity was expected since Canada has a patent system that allows applicants to delay requesting examination for 5 years from the filing date. US patent application claims are often allowed before Canadian examination begins.

The USPTO PPH pilot program with the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) ran from July 2006 to January 2008, during which 276 requests were received by the USPTO. In January, the USPTO fully implemented its PPH program with the JPO. As of April 30, the USPTO had received 108 additional requests following full implementation of the program.

The USPTO is also currently involved in a trial pilot program with the UK Intellectual Property Office (commenced in September 2007). As of April 30, the USPTO received 15 requests under this program. In addition, both Korea and Australia are involved in PPH pilot programs with the USPTO.