Patents: Europe and the U.S. Are Getting Closer

The European Patent Office (EPO) recently announced that it has agreed with The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to jointly develop a patent classification system on the basis of the European Classification system, ECLA.

The Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, Mr. David Kappos, and the President of the EPO, Mr. Benoît Battistelli, have agreed on the following joint statement:

“In view of the significant benefit to stakeholders of developing a transparent and harmonized approach to a global classification system for patent documents; in order to make the search process more effective; and in the belief that cooperation between their two offices will facilitate progress in undertaking classification harmonization projects under the IP5 Common Hybrid Classification initiative, the USPTO and the EPO have agreed together to work toward the formation of a partnership to explore the development of a joint classification system based on the European Classification system (ECLA) that will incorporate the best classification practices of the two offices. This system would be aligned with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) classification standards and the International Patent Classification (IPC) structure. Accordingly, they have initiated discussions on governance and operational aspects of such a partnership. (…)”

This is a milestone achievement in the so-called five IP offices (IP5) co-operation as it will allow them to move toward the Common Hybrid Classification, one of the ten Foundation Projects of the five IP offices. The five IP offices are the European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office, Korean Intellectual Property Office, State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China, and United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Are you dealing with world-wide patents? What is your experience with the IP system in different regions of the world?