On July 1, 2018, the IP5 (Patent Offices for the US, the EU, Japan, Korea, and China) launched a new pilot program, PCT CS&E, testing collaborative search and examination for the PCT. The Pilot Program is currently scheduled to take a total of three years. In years one and two the IP5 will be conducting the collaborative Pilot Program, while the third year will revolve around studying its effects. 100 applications from each International Search Authority will be accepted to the Pilot Program over the first two years, for a total of 500 files total. The goal of CS&E is to increase efficiency for the respective Patent Offices and applicants.
An application submitted to the CS&E Pilot Program is first reviewed by the PCT ISA to verify the fulfillment of required CS&E criteria and other application formalities before acceptance. The application is then sent to the first ISA (one of the IP5) for a provisional search and provisional opinion, which are sent to the “Peer” offices of the other IP5 who provide any additional comment and contribution to the search. After all four of the other offices have reviewed and contributed, the first ISA compiles the cumulative work, and produces a Final International Search Report and Written Opinion.
The total PCT CS&E process is expected to take a maximum of 16 weeks from receipt by the first ISA to the Final International Search Report and Written Opinion (eight weeks for initial search, four weeks for peer review, and four weeks for final drafting and incorporation of peer review). With the additional review from the other four IP5 offices, applicants who are planning to file in the IP5 may expect to have more expedited national phases.
There have previously been two pilot programs where the USPTO coordinated with other offices in order to determine the most effective operational system for inter-office collaboration. The goal of improving efficiency for applicants and patent offices will be reviewed in the third year of the Pilot Program. Participation in the PCT CS&E must be requested at the time of the filing and can be requested either online or using a provided PDF form. For more information on the Pilot Program, see the USPTO’s information page here.