The European Patent Office (EPO) has put in place the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programme for a number of years with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japanese Patent Office (JPO). Furthermore, the EPO, the JPO, the USPTO, the Korean Intellectual Property Office and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China, known collectively as the IP5 Offices, recently launched a new and comprehensive PPH which started in January 2014.

With a view to further boosting innovation and trade, the EPO has now signed a PPH pilot programmes with the patent offices of Canada, Mexico and Singapore as well, in order to launch accelerated treatment of the related patent applications starting in January 2015.

The various agreements were signed in Geneva during the course of the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

According to the EPO, the pilot programmes will leverage fast-track patent examination procedures which will enable innovators from the relevant regions to obtain patents in a faster and more efficient manner.

In particular, applicants whose claims have been found to be patentable by either the EPO, the Canadian Patent Office, the Mexican Patent Office or the Singapore Patent Office may ask for the corresponding applications that are pending before one of the other Offices to be processed in an accelerated manner. The Offices also agreed that in such cases they will refer to, and share, already existing work results as much as possible. The expectation is that this will speed up the process as well as reduce costs for applicants.

In connection with the signing of the agreements with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property of the United Mexican States and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, the EPO President Battistelli stated that these agreements promote the Offices’ joint efforts to increase the use of patents and improve conditions for innovation. He also stated that By way of the agreements, European companies will surely benefit from simplified access to patent protection in Canada, Mexico and Singapore, which are of course very dynamic regions. President Battistelli added that this also means that through this expansion of the PPH programme patent applicants from Europe will benefit from similar conditions in the markets in Canada, Mexico and Singapore in a manner similar to their counterparts from the US or Japan. Similarly, for Canadian, Mexican and Singaporean innovators, too, the agreements provide an efficient route to obtaining high quality patent protection in Europe.

The CEO of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office confirmed that this is a key development for Canada and, in particular, for Canadian businesses and innovators, who have long expressed their need for a more coordinated global approach to patent examinations. He added that Canada is “pleased to be partnering with the EPO, as Europe is an important trading region for Canadian companies.” Similarly, the CEO of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore this new collaboration is a strong endorsement of the patent quality of Singapore, the ASEAN region as well as Europe.

It is envisaged that by this expansion of the PPH programme there will be even more opportunities for patent applicants throughout the world and who seek to obtain patent protection in Europe to access such patent protection in an ever more efficient and cost-effective manner.

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