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The US and UK patent offices have agreed to share and recognise each other's patent examination reports under a new deal. The offices hope the deal could save significant application time for would-be patent holders.

The 12-month pilot deal creates what the offices are calling a Patent Prosecution Highway. It means that someone who has had a patent examination report produced by one of the two offices can receive accelerated treatment from the other office.

The agreement between the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) and the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) mirrors a deal signed earlier this year between the UK and Japan. An agreement had already existed between the US and Japan.

"The Patent Prosecution Highway agreement between the UK-IPO and the USPTO will enhance the operational efficiency of both agencies and improve patent quality," said Lord Triesman, parliamentary under secretary of state for intellectual property and quality. "The agreement will help to efficiently and effectively safeguard inventors' intellectual property and help to stimulate innovation on a national and international scale."

Triesman said the aim of patent offices is to create a wide ranging network of such agreements. "The PPH helps both offices in their goal of stimulating and rewarding invention and innovation and is a further step towards a global patent prosecution highway network," he said.

"Our collective goal is to reduce duplication of work, speed up processing, and improve quality," said Jon Dudas, director of the USPTO. "This pilot project with the UK builds on work with the Japanese Patent Office, and contributes to a more rational international patent system."

To qualify for the faster processing, an applicant would have to submit the search and examination reports produced by the partner patent office.

The review of intellectual property carried out by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers late last year recommended that the UK-IPO engage in work-sharing partnerships such as those with the US and Japan.

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