Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fast tracking patent examination in SE Asia

The 10 ASEAN Member States have the ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC) program. Although it started in 2009, it hasn't been widely used yet. The ASPEC program is the first regional work sharing program amongst the ASEAN group of countries. It allows an ASEAN country to accept the examination or search export from another ASEAN patent office. It enables fast track examination. Another goal is reduce duplication on the search and examination work, thereby saving each state time and effort. Interesting English operates as the language of ASPEC.
Applicants simply file an ASPEC request. Most offices have now implemented this. But not every ASEAN country can usefully use this system. Not all of them have full patent systems. Many are too slow to be useful as first offices. In practice there have been on the ground difficulties where some countries do not yet accept each others' reports. But the system is gaining traction and now requests are being made.
The main benefit derives from Singapore's fast examination times. Because first examination reports are issued there more quickly than other countries, then these can be filed with an ASPIC request when examination starts in other countries. This could lead to first office actions in other ASEAN countries within 18 months rather than 3 – 8 years as is mostly the case now. It will give significant advantages to fast moving technologies, or potentially complex technologies where examinations are had for smaller countries to conduct.
IPOS in Singapore are keenly promoting it. Other patent work sharing systems are also coming into place, with Japan doing deals with several ASEAN countries bilaterally. Could this be the start of a real reduction in the sometimes painfully long examination times in this region?

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