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EPO launches fast-track patent examination with Australia

1 July 2016

The EPO and the Intellectual Property Office of Australia (IP Australia) have launched today their joint Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot programme to enable accelerated treatment of patent applications in both regions.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral co-operation by EPO President Benoît Battistelli and Patricia Kelly, the Director General of IP Australia, in October 2015.

"Australia is an important market for European companies and a growing source of applications at the EPO, so we're very pleased to be able to launch this pilot programme," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "The fast-track treatment will enable companies and inventors from Europe and Australia to obtain patents more quickly and efficiently, boosting business and innovation in both our regions. The programme is also set to further strengthen economic and technological ties between Australia and Europe."

Under the pilot programme, which will run for an initial term of 3 years, applicants whose claims have been found to be patentable by the EPO or IP Australia may ask for accelerated processing of their corresponding application at the other office, while the offices will share existing work results, speeding up the process and reducing costs for the users.

The PPH also enables IP Australia to gain experience in the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) - a common, internationally-compatible classification system for patent documents managed jointly by the EPO and US Patent and Trademark Office, and now used by more than 20 patent offices around the world. This could pave the way for future co-operation with Australia in this area of technical harmonisation.

The EPO and IP Australia will also continue to co-operate on sharing data, to improve access to patent information for patent offices and users of the patent system alike.

The EPO already has operational PPH pilot programmes with the IP5 offices (a grouping of the world's five largest IP offices, made up of the EPO plus the patent offices of China, Japan, Korea, and the US), as well as with the national patent offices of Canada, Israel, Mexico and Singapore.

In 2015 Australian inventors and companies filed 819 patent applications with the EPO, an increase of 4% over the previous year. The leading fields of technology were medical technology (108 applications), pharmaceuticals (68), civil engineering (65) and biotechnology (54).