What is Trilateral Co-Operation?

The Trilateral Co-operation system was set up in 1983 between the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The aim of the co-operation was to create projects to implement new technologies to store, process and distribute very large amounts of data that is associated with intellectual property.

The Objectives of the Trilateral Co-Operation include:

>    Improving the quality of examination processes and reducing the processing time of patent applications;

>    Improving the quality of incoming applications;

>    Developing common infrastructure and compatible data for electronic business systems and search tools;

>    Solving common problems related to the protection of industrial property rights;

>    Harmonizing practices of the three Offices;

>    Promoting the dissemination of the technical information contained in patents;

>    Deepening awareness of the benefits of the patent system; and

>    Exploiting the full potential of work performed by the other Trilateral Offices in search, examination, documentation and electronic tools.

One of the projects that has borne fruit from the Trilateral Co-Operation is the “Common Citation Document” (CCD) database.  This is a powerful resource that provides a single access point (a joint database) to access citation data for Japanese, European and US examined patent applications.  It consolidates the prior art cited by all the participating offices for the family members of a patent application.

The Trilateral Co-Operation is also involved in a number of other very important projects including ones dealing with Machine Translations, Classification, e-learning and Examiner Exchanges between the offices.

In recent times the Trilateral Co-Operation has extended, in part, to including an additional office.  The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has been included in the Trilateral Co-Operations’ “Four Office Statistics Report” since 2008.  The Trilateral Co-Operation has also produced a useful report about the differing practices between the 3 offices: JPO, EPO, USPTO.  It also has been expanded to include the office of Korea (KIPO) and China (SIPO).

The Catalogue of Differing Practices (CDP) is a tool aimed at identifying the differences in patent examination practice in the Trilateral Offices, as well as in the practice of KIPO (Korean Intellectual Property Office) and SIPO (State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China).   It is a very useful tool for patent practitioners operating in the international space.

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