On September 24, 2014, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (‘CIPO’) made a significant announcement that it had signed an agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO) to establish a Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot that will begin in January, 2015. According to the CEO of CIPO, Sylvain Laporte who lead the Canadian delegation at this year’s World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) General Assemblies from September 22 to 30 during which the agreement was signed, "this is a key development for Canada and, in particular, Canadian businesses and innovators, who have strongly expressed their need for a more coordinated global approach to patent examinations. We are pleased to be partnering with the EPO, as Europe is an important trading region for Canadian companies. This is also another demonstration of the Canadian government's efforts to reduce administrative burden on Canadian business."
What is a Patent Prosecution Highway? A PPH is formed through an agreement between Intellectual Property Offices (‘IPOs’) in different jurisdictions, which provides patent applicants with ‘fast-tracked’ patent prosecution procedures by sharing information between the participating patent offices. PPH applicants generally have the option of making a request for accelerated examination to a participating office, provided that they have a corresponding application with a PPH partner, and they meet the necessary requirements. This means that under PPH agreements, Canadian patent applications are generally examined in accordance with the Canadian Patent Act and Patent Rules. The benefits of PPHs include increasing the use of patents and encouraging innovation by making filing for patent protection more efficient and cost-effective for applicants. PPHs also help to reduce duplication of effort and decrease workloads for intellectual property offices.
Under the new CIPO-EPO PPH program, applicants whose claims have been found to be patentable by either CIPO or the EPO can request accelerated processing of their corresponding applications that are pending before the other office. The agreement also facilitates the sharing of information on existing work results between CIPO and the EPO. It follows closely on the heels of the Global Patent Prosecution Highway System Pilot that began on January 6, 2014, and which provides a common framework and outlines principles that are intended to set the foundation for a global PPH system. Canada is participating in the multilateral Global PPH Pilot along with a number of other participating offices around the world, including Australia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada also currently has short-term bilateral pilot agreements in place with China, Germany and Mexico.
The CIPO and EPO PPH agreement is an exciting development for innovative Canadian businesses seeking to extend their patent protections into the European market, and will contribute to increasing Canada’s status as an attractive jurisdiction for patent applications.