What is PPH?
PPH stands for Patent Prosecution Highway. The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) is an initiative for providing accelerated patent prosecution procedures by sharing information between some of the patent offices. The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) speeds up the examination process for corresponding applications filed in participating intellectual property offices. It permits each participating patent office to benefit from the work previously done by the other patent office, with the goal of reducing examination workload and improving patent quality
Under PPH, participating patent offices have agreed that when an applicant receives a final ruling from any of one of the first patent office and in that, at least one claim is allowed, the applicant may request fast track examination of corresponding claim(s) in a corresponding patent application that is pending in a second patent office. PPH leverages fast-track examination procedures already in place among the participating patent offices to allow applicants to reach final disposition of a patent application quickly and efficiently as compared to standard examination processing.
Among the Asian countries, Japan has consistently filed the most number of India bound patent applications between 2016-2018 (8762 applications). The filings of patent applications by Japanese corporations in India has increased over the past few years, as suggested by the Annual Reports published by the office of Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM) of India. Therefore, Japan has been the inevitable choice for first alliance of the pilot patent prosecution highway program with Japanese Patent Office (JPO). As a direct consequence of this pilot program and the recent amendment in Patent (Amendment) Rules 2019, Japanese companies will now be able to request for expedited examinations in India for applications already filed at the Indian patent office and where such claims have been determined to be patentable in Japan. However, the decision whether to grant a patent or not will remain under the control of the regional offices of India and Japan. But the plus point is that the applicants can acquire patents through a quicker and much simplified procedure.
A Bilateral Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot program has commenced between the Indian Patent Office (IPO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO). The guidelines in this regard have been published on the website of Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks.
The proponents of PPH armed with statistics favour more such PPH alliances (whether bilateral, multilateral, global) with other patent offices as it would boost innovation in India. Further, a speedier disposal of the cases through more such PPH programs in their view would further incentivize the "deep-tech" companies to invest more in AI, ML, big data, IOT etc. for setting up R&D and manufacturing facilities. On the other hand, the local pharmaceutical lobbies and those working in farm and agritech areas feel PPH will not just result in expedited examination but may also result in examiners simply relying on the examination report of the JPO and grant patents ignoring the strict patentability norms laid out under the Indian law, thus, diluting India's stand against "evergreening" of patents. If we look at recent trends highlighted in the Patent office Annual Report, it shows an increase of 32.5% in the grant of patents and 108.2% in the examination of patent application over the previous year. The figures reflect appreciable effort made by the Patent office in clearing backlog. With such diverse views, the need for India to take PPH route is not clear when India has stood against WIPO's earlier attempts to harmonise patent laws.
In essence, it would be interesting to see how PPH program will turn out for advancing trade interest of India as well as maintaining access to medicines and agri-technologies.
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