U.S., Japan Patent Offices To Launch Accelerated Review Process

By Cassie Duong
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan Patent Office will launch the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) July 3, an initiative intended to speed review of many patent applications submitted to both countries.

Under the current international patent system, inventors must apply separately for patents from each country in which they desire recognition and protection of their intellectual property rights regarding a machine, process, design or other innovation.  Each country that receives an application must then perform its own searches of previously submitted applications as well as inventions described in printed publications or made available for sale for at least a year but not yet patented in order to determine if the application "has patentability" (is eligible for a patent).

The PPH would permit an applicant whose invention has received patentability from either the United States or Japan to inform the other country's patent office of this status.  The process would expedite the work of the second office by enabling it to use the patent and public disclosure or sale search results from the first office and thereby enable applicants who have made submissions to both countries to receive patents more quickly.

"This pilot project represents an important first step toward our goal of reducing duplication of searching through work-sharing," said Jon Dudas, U.S. under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the USPTO.

"We must find ways to streamline processing and avoid redundancy through cooperative efforts."

The PPH will begin July 3, 2006, and end July 3, 2007, with a possible extension for an additional year for adequate assessment of the program's feasibility.  If applications for participation in the accelerated review program exceed a manageable level during the trial period, officials may end the program ahead of schedule.


In the U.S. patent system, there are three patent categories:  utility, design and plant.  Anyone who invents, makes useful improvements upon or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter can apply for a utility patent.  Anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture is eligible for a design patent.  Plant patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

The average patent application takes an average of 24.6 months from the official filing date to completion of the process.  The application time varies depending on the category under which the patent falls.

Patents remain in effect anywhere from three to 20 years, depending on type.  There are also special circumstances that extend some patents longer than 20 years through a renewal process.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Protecting Intellectual Property Rights.

The full text of the press release, a list of requirements to participate in the program and general information about patents are available on the USPTO Web site.