It’s not a secret; for years, thanks to globalization and an ever-increasing number of patent applications, the USPTO has had a significant backlog of patent applications. Due to the nature of a disjointed international patent system, inventors often must file multiple patents, in various countries, to protect just one invention. The redundancies in this current process has lead to duplicated work efforts in multiple offices, decreased review efficiencies, longer processing times, and increased costs for both patent offices, and the patent applicant.

With an understanding that the delay between the application filing date and the date of examination costs innovators, inventors and the global economy, USPTO Director, David Kappos, notes in his blog that his office has a responsibility to lead the changes in the processes and procedures needed to improve this global system. Following the WIPO General Assemblies Meetings, held in Geneva, at the end of September, and discussing the issues with Deputy Director Barner, Kappos surmises that improvements in this system must begin with better management of the application examination workload. Kappos’s strategy centers on work-sharing concepts.

First, Kappos notes new efficiencies must be created in the global system to leverage the search and examination products of other IP offices. Kappos also believes the global patent community must be given increased flexibility regarding when applications can be examined and accelerated.  One such work-sharing program is the SHARE/FLASH program (Strategic Handling of Applications for Rapid Examination/First Look Application Sharing).

The SHARE/FLASH program is tentatively scheduled to begin this Fall. Leveraging the existing priority document exchange program with the Trilateral Offices (USPTO, European Patent Office and Japan Patent Office), this program will expedite examination efforts on Office of First Filing applications. The notification system will notify the other offices of the application, so they can take advantage of the early availability of the results of the search and examination process, conducted by the USPTO.  In the beginning, this one year pilot program will be limited to approximately 100 applications, per Trilateral Office, per month.