The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that it will coordinate with its Japanese counterpart full time, beginning next year.
The USPTO and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) will continue working together through the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), an 18-month pilot program that will become permanent Jan. 4. The USPTO said the program has improved efficiency.
Through PPH, the U.S. Department of Commerce and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry work together to protect intellectual property rights and streamline the international patent system.
Under the program, when one country rules that an applicant has a patentable claim, the applicant can request fast-track examination of corresponding claims through both countries and obtain patents faster.
"The pilot project shows that the Patent Prosecution Highway offers significant potential for our offices to make inroads in reducing our backlogs, eliminating redundant work, and examining more efficiently," Jon Dudas, undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the USPTO, said in a statement.
"By leveraging work done by other offices, the USPTO can make better use of its resources to speed up processing and improve quality," he continued. "Implementation of the Patent Prosecution Highway is an important first step in building up the office-to-office network of cooperation that will be necessary to make the full vision of work sharing on a global scale a reality."
Masahiro Koezuka, JPO's commissioner, said the pilot proved effective in supporting Japanese and U.S. industries, while also ensuring rapid patent acquisition and high-quality patents. He said that by going full-time with the program, Japan and the United States are moving toward a global patent prosecution system.