By Jack Eui-Hwan JUNG, Hye Joo MIN

IP5, the five major intellectual property offices including the European Patent Office ("EPO"), the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"), the Japan Patent Office ("JPO"), the State Intellectual Property Office of the People's Republic of China ("SIPO"), and the Korean Intellectual Property Office ("KIPO"), announced that they are seeking to standardize patent examination. Applications filed with IP5 account for about 77% of the worldwide patent applications.

Jung-Sik Koh, Commissioner of KIPO, announced that IP5 decided on ten foundation projects for standardizing patent examination and agreed to actively pursue those projects at the Vice Ministerial Consultations held in Murnau, Germany on June 11-12, 2009.

The ten foundation projects cover all examination practices and systems, including:

  1. Establishing a Common Documentation Database to bring together a common set of relevant patent and non-patent literature from around the world to assist patent examiners in their prior art searches.
  2. Establishing a Common Hybrid Classification System to enable joint and efficient updating of patent classification.
  3. Establishing a Common Application Format by utilizing electronic patent application filing in XML format and subsequently processing and publishing in XML format.
  4. Providing Common Access to Search and Examination Results to enable examiners to find references in the dossier information of other offices, such as search and examination results, and to efficiently conduct priority document exchange (PDX) to reduce applicants' cost of ordering copies of priority documents and the administrative cost of processing such orders.
  5. Establishing a Common Training Policy to standardize the training of patent examiners at each office, helping examiners produce search and examination results of consistent quality.
  6. Establishing Mutual Machine Translation to help the offices overcome the language barrier and allow greater access to each other's patent information.
  7. Establishing Common Rules for Examination Practice and Quality Control.
  8. Establishing a System of Common Statistical Parameters for Examination at the five offices and exchanging information on examination practices under the common rules and parameters.
  9. Establishing a Common Approach to Sharing and Documenting Search Strategies to enable the patent examiners of each office to understand each other's search strategies.
  10. Establishing Common Search and Examination Support Tools to facilitate work-sharing.

If IP5 actively pursues the ten foundation projects, the efficiency and consistency of patent examination processes and results across the five offices will improve.

IP5 agreed to hold an examiners' workshop in Korea during the second half of this year to compare the examination practices of IP5 and to check the progress of the ten foundation projects. This workshop will boost the work-sharing activities of the ten foundation projects.

Won-Jung Kim, the KIPO Vice-Chief who attended the Vice Ministerial Consultations in Murnau, Germany as a KIPO representative, stated that "international cooperation in patent examination became an international trend and will be more successful than ever before." He further stated that "KIPO's participation in the work-sharing among IP5 will further internationalize Korean patent practice."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.