WIPO Symposium Concludes Global Patent Application Backlogs Unsustainable

Geneva, September 18, 2009

A two-day international symposium concluded on September 18, 2009 with broad agreement on the need to pool efforts at the international level to address the problem of backlogs in patent applications. 

Closing the first Global Symposium for Intellectual Property Authorities, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry referred to recently published data that showed that the global backlog in unprocessed patent applications around the world in 2007 was a staggering 4.2 million. These backlogs have grown on average at a rate of 8.7% over the past five years. “This is unsustainable,” Mr. Gurry said.  

“We have moved beyond consciousness of the need to address unsustainable processing of patent applications to action,” Mr. Gurry said, noting that the main challenge of the future is to promote coordinated international action to enhance efficiency of operations and encourage dissemination of best practices in modernizing the infrastructure, operations and management of IP offices.  

Work sharing for prosecuting patent applications was suggested as a solution to existing inefficiencies.  Patent prosecution highway (PPH) projects were extensively discussed at the Symposium. Participants concluded that the PCT should serve as the backbone for work sharing in relation to patent prosecution to support existing bilateral PPH agreements. Representatives of the Trilateral Offices (European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office and United States Patent and Trademark Office), attending the Symposium signaled their agreement in principle to integrating PCT work products (PCT international preliminary reports on patentability) into their ongoing PPH projects. Pilot projects are to start in early 2010. The Director General said this was a major development that WIPO warmly welcomed. 

New initiatives for work sharing were announced at the Symposium. These include the Vancouver group (Australia, Canada, and UK) project for mutual exploitation of search and examination documents; and a Latin American project to exchange search and examination data on patents and trademarks involving nine partners (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank). Mr. Gurry welcomed new collaboration projects. In response to a call for technical assistance from WIPO in these projects for building a common international patent platform, Mr. Gurry said that WIPO is pleased to provide technical assistance in developing the common platform to ensure global compatibility and interoperability of such initiatives. 

More than 40 heads of IP offices participated in the event, together with users of the IP system. Appreciation was expressed for new WIPO initiatives outlined by Mr. Gurry on the enhancement of IP databases, including steps to upgrade PATENTSCOPE® with national patent data collection and the recent launch of aRDi (Access to Research for Development and Innovation) to narrow the knowledge gap in least developed countries.   

In facilitating the efficiency of patent searches, participants reaffirmed the need for WIPO to play a proactive role in collecting information on the legal status of patents for inclusion in PATENTSCOPE®.   

The Symposium also provided a forum for the exchange of experiences and best practices in the area of trademark and industrial design registration, arbitration and mediation services for IP-related disputes, financial management of IP offices, and IP office’s role in promoting innovation in partnership with science and innovation institutions.

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