Since 14 April 2008, IP Australia and the USPTO have been trailing a program called the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH). The underlying aspect of the program is to allow accelerated or expedited examination of a patent application in either Australia or USA based upon a corresponding application in the other country which has at least one formally allowed claim.
The pilot was initially restricted to only patent applications which were originating in either Australia or the USA. In other words, applications having a priority claim from a country other than Australia or USA were excluded from the program. By practical effect, this tended to exclude the program from non-US and non-Australian applicants.
Since, January 2011, the program was expanded to include applications coming from the PCT system. Again, though, only PCT applications having originated from Australia and USA and having either of these countries as the International Searching/Examination Authority were eligible for the PPH program.
The PPH program has now been extended for another 12 months, which commenced on 15 July 2011. However, the extended program has now been expanded so as to be less restrictive on what constitutes eligible applications. Now the requirement of origin has been removed so that any Australian and US patent application will be eligible regardless of country of priority claim. In effect, this has now opened the door for the program to any applicant having eligible corresponding US and Australian patent applications.
by Simon Ellis