By Christopher P. Singer --
In an October 31, 2008 press release, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the development of a work sharing plan between five major intellectual property offices. The representatives of the five offices, including Dr. Jung-Sik Koh, Commissioner of the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO); Alison Brimelow, President of the European Patent Office (EPO); Takashi Suzuki, Commissioner of the Japan Patent Office (JPO); Tian Lipu, Commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office of the People's Republic of China (SIPO); and Jon Dudas, Director of the USPTO, adopted a unified vision statement for the initiative: "The elimination of unnecessary duplication of work among the offices, enhancement of patent examination efficiency and quality, and guarantee of the stability of patent right." The group also laid the framework for ten "Foundation Projects" that are designed to harmonize the search and examination environment in each office and to standardize the information sharing process. Through these projects the offices hope to facilitate work sharing by building mutual trust in each office's work product, and enhancing search and examination quality.
According to the press release, each office will oversee the implementation of two Foundation Projects. The offices agreed that as an initial step they would exchange detailed proposals regarding each of the ten Foundation Projects, and identify areas of agreement and discuss specific details of implementation no later than the end of April 2009. The Foundation Projects split between the offices as follows:
• Common Documentation Database -- which has a goal of bringing together a common set of relevant patent and non-patent literature from around the world to assist patent examiners in their prior art searches.
• Common Approach for a Hybrid Classification -- which has a goal of enabling joint and efficient updating of patent classification and facilitate the reuse of work among the patent offices
• Common Application Format -- which has a goal of facilitating the filing procedure of each office by using a Common Application Format; and by using electronic or digitized patent application filing (in XML format) and subsequent processing and publication in XML format.
• Common Access to Search and Examination Results -- which has a goal of enabling examiners to find one-stop references in the dossier information of other offices, such as search and examination results. Another goal of this project is to conduct the priority document exchange (PDX) to reduce the cost of ordering copies of priority documents for applicants and the administrative costs of electronic processing for offices.
• Common Training Policy -- which has a goal of standardizing the training of patent examiners at each office, helping examiners to produce equivalent results of search and examination at the five offices.
• Mutual Machine Translation -- which has a goal of helping the offices overcome the language barrier of patent information and allow greater access to each office's patent information.
• Common Rules for Examination Practice and Quality Control -- which has a goal of performing patent examinations at a similar standard and quality through common rules of examination practice and quality control.
• Common Statistical Parameter System for Examination -- which has a goal of establishing a system of common statistical parameters for all examinations at the five offices; and to conduct statistical tasks and exchange information on examination practices under common rules and parameters, building on the work of the Trilateral statistical working group.
• Common Approach to Sharing and Documenting Search Strategies -- which has a goal of promoting repeated use of searches by enabling the patent examiners of each office to understand each other's search strategy.
• Common Search and Examination Support Tools -- which has a goal of establishing a system of common search and examination tools to facilitate work-sharing.