Does it sound ideal or dystopian that there may be a unified worldwide patent system in our future? Some believe the first step to such a system is the international collaboration of the top five patenting authorities in the world. Out of the many projects underway, one relates to more advanced and standardized patent search systems for examiners. What might this unified search system look like? What should it look like?
The Five IP Offices (IP5) is an international task force between the European Patent Office (EPO), Japan Patent Office (JPO), Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The IP5’s purpose is to “improve the efficiency of the examination process for patents worldwide.” The IP5 is largely pursuing this goal through 10 different projects currently underway. The lead on two projects is assigned to each patenting authority in the following configuration:
- Common Documentation; Common Hybrid Classification
- Common Access to Search and Examination Results; Common Application Format
- Common Training Policy; Mutual Machine Translation
- Common Examination Practice Rules and Quality Management; Common Statistical Parameter System for Examination
- Common Approach to Sharing and Documenting Search Strategies; Common Search and Examination Support Tools
To quote the vision statement for the Common Search and Examination Support Tools (Search Systems) project:
The Common Search Environment may be achieved by multiple approaches and can be implemented incrementally. Within the common environment, a balance needs to be found between, on the one hand, reduction of costs and repeatability of results provided by a single shared system, and, on the other hand, the examiners’ choice of multiple systems in performing a search within their discretion which may increase examination quality and efficiency due to characteristics of languages and differences of systems and frameworks in IP5 offices. The common search environment will support the exchange of information with the examination tools of the five offices to the maximum extent possible, taking into account…their different examination procedures.
We can see from analyzing this statement that the goal of a shared search system for examiners is not to standardize examination procedures themselves. We can also see that multiple search systems will not be thrown out, baby-with-the-bathwater style, but rather that a single basic search system is being sought to guarantee an equivalent baseline of quality in searches. The basic qualities cited on the IP5 website are further delineated to include family member standardization, a common documentation database, support of individual patent authority metrics such as image load time, document translation and more.
Out of these goals, it seems to me that document translation and providing a standard database of documents (including patents) seems both most lofty and most important. With the explosion of non-latin character patent documents in China, Japan, and Korea (not to mention Russia), world patenting authorities face a challenge in quickly and accurately supplying this information to examiners (let alone this information being available to patent searchers outside of the authorities offices). Third party search systems such as TotalPatent strive to be on the cutting edge of full text translated searching for authorities such as Russia, the former Soviet Union, and China, but large gaps still remain in this difficult to source and interpret documentation.
If a unified baseline prior art search system for patent examiners comes to fruition, what features would you like to see emphasized? Do you think the IP5 is headed in the right direction? Let us know what you think in the comments.
This post was contributed by Intellogist team member Chris Jagalla.