International Patent Cooperation: Trilateral Conference and IP5

Heads of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) – collectively known as the Trilateral Offices – met in Kyoto, Japan earlier this week to hold their annual Trilateral Conference, which marks their 30th anniversary this year. Since 1983, the Trilateral Offices have worked together to produce new databases and IT systems, evolving their cooperation by conducting various projects designed to solve common challenges.  Indeed, the Trilateral Offices have led the way on international patent cooperation and laid the groundwork for work sharing efforts globally.

Meanwhile, a coalition of the world’s five largest patent offices – the IP5 – earlier today announced the release of the IP5 Statistics Report 2011 Edition. The IP5 is comprised of the USPTO, the EPO, the JPO, the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO). These IP5 Offices together handle approximately 80% of the world’s patent applications.  The IP5 began meeting in 2007 and have since worked together to explore ways to further optimize their joint efforts to improve quality and efficiency of the examination process and to explore and optimize work sharing opportunities between the Offices.

All of the accomplishments of the IP5 and Trilateral Offices “lead to improving global patent systems today,” said Hiroyuki Fukano, Commissioner of JPO. “It is our current task to build an appropriate framework in which applicants are able to be granted patents smoothly in every corner of the world. In order to achieve building truly global patent systems in a global era, we would like to take the lead in developing such global patent systems.”

The IP5 Statistics

Unfortunately, I do not have much to write about the 2011 IP5 Statistics, other than their release was announced today. Upon visiting the website where the 2011 statistics were to be presented, it seems they are not yet available to the public. The spreadsheet containing the patent applications filed at the five offices contains data only as recent as 2009, which is rather dated at this point.  The spreadsheet containing the patents granted by IPC class has data through 2010.  Presumably at some point in the near future the IP5 website will be updated to include the 2011 statistics.


Trilateral Conference

As you might expect from a diplomatic meeting, the Trilateral Offices confirmed their commitment to eliminating unnecessary duplication of work, enhancing patent examination efficiency and quality, and working to ensure that stable patent rights can be granted smoothly and easily worldwide. But did anything of consequence come of the meeting beyond the diplomatic niceties?

A quick glance at the power point slides used at the Conference suggest that the meeting was more one to bring partners up to speed on efforts underway to streamline patent prosecution.  “The Trilateral has always been about people as well as projects. It has created a space for easy, informal communication, leading to a deeper form of mutual understanding and trust whose value is immeasurable,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli.

Trilateral cooperation did see several key advances in 2012, including:

  • Improvement of the Common Citation Document (CCD) web application reflecting feed-back from the Trilateral industry;
  • Agreement to initiate and promote the Global Dossier Initiative under the IP5 framework, and;
  • Revitalization of the discussion on improving the Patent Cooperation Treaty with a number of concrete proposals for future implementation.

Furthermore, because the Trilateral Offices process a substantial majority of all patent applications filed worldwide, including Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, there is a continued interest in streamlining the patent process. Worksharing efforts continue to be one of the primary ways international patent offices seek to cope with the never ending and constantly growing number of patent applications.

“These worksharing efforts have brought the resources of the world’s leading patent authorities to bear on improving the quality of examination processes and reducing the processing time for patent applications,” said the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos.

“We have sought to facilitate worksharing by streamlining our patent procedures and harmonising our administrative practice. Latterly, our cooperation on technical matters has been extended to include industry,” said Battistelli.

The 31st Annual Trilateral Conference will be hosted in the United States by the USPTO in the fall of 2013.


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