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Kappos urges patent offices to find common ground

USPTO Director David Kappos today called for a renewed focus on international harmonisation of patent systems

Speaking at the Managing IP International Patent Forum in London, Kappos said: "I am thrilled that we're opening up more opportunities to work together with more countries, since ultimately the roadmap to harmonisation will be constructed by engaging offices across all continents."

He acknowledged that harmonisation discussions have previously come to a standstill but stressed that "there is immense value in resolving our differences".

The USPTO director said that patents are the premier global currency for creating value for innovators, but that the currency risked being devalued as patent laws are stuck in the last century - or even the 19th century.

This means patent offices are wasting billions of dollars in repeating work, he said. "Today, by affirmatively working together, we can say no to those impediments."

This means harmonisation must no longer be deemed a dirty word, he said: "Instead, a 21st century imperative demands that we work together to promote solutions that make sense - collectively - for all of our countries."

Kappos was giving the opening keynote address at the two-day forum.

"Over the next two days I hope we can earnestly address issues about patentability standards, scope of enforcement, definitions of prior art and a host of other topics," he said.

He added that all these matters should be "robustly debated" so there is an understanding of the perspectives behind policies and their affects on efficiencies in offices.

"Discussions should also consider pre-grant prior art submissions by third parties, and what laws best promote full disclosure, early disclosure, and maximum dissemination of information," he added.

But he stressed that these efforts are not about imposing the will of any one country or group of countries.

Instead, he said, they are about gaining a better understanding of needs and learning about different approaches that are considered worthy of the gold standard.

Effective harmonisation could lead to cuts in workflow redundancies and reductions in the workflow backlog, which would in turn generate jobs and breathe life into economies.

Kappos pointed to the growth of patent prosecution highways as evidence of effective harmonisation. The Office is expected to handle about 8,000 PPH applications this year.

He added that the US has already shown its willingness to act with patent reform legislation passing through Congress that will introduce a so-called first-inventor-to-file system among other changes.

"When (not if) enacted, this legislation will mark the most sweeping reforms to the US patent system in at least 60 years - arguably in over 150 years," he said.

The US is making these reforms "because they are global best policy and best practices - because they are the right thing to do," said Kappos, who added that the administration is working to ensure the legislation gains bipartisan support.

While in the UK, Kappos also discussed worksharing efforts between the USPTO and the UK IP Office.

The Forum continues tomorrow.

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