Expanded Collaborative Search Pilot Program
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) conducted two separate Collaborative Search Pilot Programs (CSPs) during the period of 2015 through 2017. One of these programs was conducted with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the other with the Korean Intellectual Patent Office (KIPO). Improvements in patent quality and examination pendency were identified as positive outcomes from these two original CSPs. Building on the success of these two programs, the USPTO is participating in a new, expanded CSP (Expanded CSP) in which applicants may request that multiple partnering Intellectual Property (IP) offices exchange search results for their counterpart applications prior to formulating and issuing their office actions. In Expanded CSP, each designated partner IP office will independently conduct a prior art search for its corresponding counterpart application. The search results will then be exchanged between the designated partner IP office(s) and the USPTO before any IP office issues an office action. By this exchange of search results, the examiners in all designated partner IP offices will have a more comprehensive set of prior art references to consider when making initial patentability determinations. In addition to changing the number of IP offices that may be providing search results to the USPTO, Expanded CSP provides applicants with more flexibility by not requiring that applicants follow the procedures of the First Action Interview Pilot Program (FAI). Expanded CSP will allow the USPTO to study the impact on examination processes resulting from exchanges of search results between the USPTO and multiple partner IP offices prior to formulating and issuing office actions.