The trial, which began this week and will run for one year, gives the European Patent Office (EPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) the right to exploit work previously done by the other office, reducing duplication, cutting the examination workload, and improving patent quality.
Applications that qualify to take part in the trial will be handled under the fast-track patent examination procedures already available in both offices.
The Patent Prosecution Highway enables an applicant whose claims are deemed be patentable/allowable in the office of first filing to have the corresponding application filed in the second office plucked out of the queue and examined out of turn, whilst at the same time allowing the second office to exploit the work carried out by the first office.
The procedures and requirements for filing a request with the USPTO for participation in the pilot programme are available from the USPTO web site. Where the patent is filed first at USPTO, applicants have to ask to take in the pilot. The EPO will obtain the necessary documents electronically via the Document Access System.
The EPO and the USPTO say they will evaluate the results of the pilot programme before deciding if the Patent Prosecution Highway should be fully implemented. The offices also said they may stop the pilot early if the volume of work exceeds a manageable level.
Applicants filing second at the EPO must file a request for participation in the PPH pilot programme. A request form (EPA/EPO/OEB 1009) is available on the EPO website.