Overshadowed by recent patent examination backlog discussions, a series of bilateral agreements, known as the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), has quietly been making progress on work-sharing between patent offices.
The PPH allows fast-tracking of an application in one country, based on the results of examination in another.
It’s been argued by some that the PPH is undermining the development of PCT work-sharing schemes, by sidestepping political logjams at the PCT level.
However, if the PPH is successful, much of the procedural work for implementing work-sharing under the PCT will already have been developed, tested and proven in practice.
Perhaps as importantly, the PPH should also have the more subjective – and critical – effect of increasing trust between patent offices. A lack of trust in the work of other patent offices has been a significant problem with achieving consensus in relation to reliance on work done in preparing the ISR, for example.
Overall, if the PPH is successful, it might ironically have the effect of speeding up a belief in genuine work-sharing at the PCT level. The recent agreement to start allowing PCT national phase applications to be used under the PPH takes another step towards that long-term goal.
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