Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programs are bilateral, work-sharing programs between patent offices designed to expedite examination and improve patent quality. In recent years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has entered into multiple PPHs with foreign patent offices, and over 5000 applicants have elected to participate in a PPH. The benefits of PPH participation are obvious; PPH applications witness significant decreases in pendency time and increases in their allowance rates, as well as decreased costs of prosecution.
Although the total number of PPH participants is just a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of filed applications, I believe that as patent backlog and legal fees rise, the PPH will increase in popularity. And in today’s marketplace where technology can become obsolete in months, not years, an applicant should do anything he/she can to procure a patent quickly.
So how does the PPH work? In nutshell, an applicant receiving a ruling from the Office of First Filing (OFF) that at least one claim is patentable may request that the Office of Second Filing (OSF) fast track the examination of corresponding claims in corresponding applications filed in the OSF. Previously, the USPTO required a fee for filing a petition to make special under the PPH program. However, that fee is no longer required as of May 25, 2010, making this option even more attractive to interested applicants.
In the past few months, there have been several developments expanding the PPH network:
- A PPH commenced between the USPTO and the Icelandic Patent Office on December 1, 2011.
- Two PPHs (one for Paris Convention applications and one for PCT applications) commenced between the USPTO and SIPO on December 1, 2011.
- A PPH commenced between the Danish Patent & Trademark Office and the USPTO on November 1, 2011.
- A PPH commenced between the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO) on November 1, 2011.
- The PPH between the Austrian Patent Office and the USPTO, originally scheduled to expire on September 30, 2011, was extended.
- A PPH commenced between the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (TIPO) and the USPTO on September 1, 2011.
For additional information on the PPH, please visit the USPTO’s website on the PPH or subscribe to our blog for email updates.