On 6 July 2017, New Zealand joined the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) pilot program, providing applicants for New Zealand patents with a means of expediting prosecution of their application.

The GPPH is an arrangement between the intellectual property offices of several jurisdictions including Australia, the United States, Japan, Canada and Korea. Under the GPPH, an applicant who receives a ruling that at least one claim has been allowed by a participating patent office may request that another participating patent office expedite examination of their application.

To be eligible for examination under the GPPH, the following requirements must be met:

  • the patent application to be examined under the GPPH must have the same earliest priority or filing date as the associated application which has already been examined by the participating patent office
  • the associated application must include one claim which has been deemed allowable by the participating patent office, and
  • the claims to be examined under the GPPH must sufficiently correspond with the allowed claims.

With regard to the third requirement above, applicants have the option of amending their claims so that they sufficiently correspond with those that have been allowed by another participating patent office. However, before making such amendments, applicants should consider the possibility of obtaining broader claims in certain jurisdictions. Patent laws vary between jurisdictions and a claim that was allowed in, say, the U.S., might be narrower that what could be obtained in New Zealand.

Prior to New Zealand’s entry into the GPPH, the options available to applicants seeking expedited examination were limited and burdensome. The GPPH now provides patent applicants with a simple way of accelerating prosecution of their patent application in several jurisdictions, potentially reducing the costs and time required to obtain a granted patent. However, allowance of a claim in one jurisdiction does not necessarily mean that a corresponding claim will be allowed in another jurisdiction.