Speaking at the Managing IP US Patent Forum in Washington DC, Pooley said the PCT is now central to “what we all do now in a very globalised economy”. He noted that it had grown rapidly: there were just 459 PCT applications in its first year but it expects to receive some 200,000 this year.
Pooley said that the PCT system “works reasonably well” but that “there is still work to be done”. He added: “The future of the PCT is about more cooperation, better tools and a constant response to a changing global environment.”
In particular, he said work is taking place to improve quality, cooperation and access/efficiency.
Regarding quality, international search authorities have agreed to focus on the quality of the international search report and agree on metrics to measure the quality of that work product. A quality sub-group has been set up and is discussing issues including the timeliness of international search reports. “Members have really engaged on these issues and we have seen a lot of progress,” said Pooley.
He added that third-party observations for the PCT started as a pilot project last July and are so far “working extremely well”. He said they would prove helpful in the national phase.
WIPO has also set up mechanisms enabling offices to comment on the work product, and feedback information on citations.
Alongside this, national offices are trying to improve cooperation by sharing search strategies so they can better understand the work product received. Under a pilot project involving the USPTO, EPO and KIPO, teams of people working on the same case share information as they go along – with one office leading on each case.
Pooley said this project has produced “very high value feedback”: in more than 60% of cases information was exchanged that would not otherwise have come to a single office; and at least one added was added in 87% of cases. According to a survey of participants, 92% felt quality was higher, and 30% felt the difference was very significant.
“This was all achieved without any special IT tools other than email and normal communications technologies,” said Pooley. He added: “We have also seen the benefit of increased industry participation.”
Further work is under way to improve access and efficiency, with the digital access service, machine translation and PCT-PPH. “PCT work product is now the leading entry point for accelerated examination in the national phase,” said Pooley.
The next step, he said, is ePCT – bringing communication into a web-based environment using one electronic platform.
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