How the Collaborative Search Pilot Program (CSP) helps US cross-filers in Japan or S. Korea

What is CSP?

Typically, most folks applying for utility patents desire the path of least resistance, meaning fewer rejections and less prior art cited. So, why would an applicant want an international team of patent examiners to gang up and search prior art in their respective countries? That is what the Collaborative Search Pilot Program (CSP) is all about: a collaborative effort between the USPTO and either Japan (JPO) or South Korea (KIPO) to examine the claims of a patent application (filed in both the US and Japan or S. Korea) by searching prior art in their respective country’s patent database.

The two patent offices would exchange search results and reevaluate their claim analyses. The end result is a more thorough search of worldwide prior art. There is a limit of 400 requests per year in each partner patent office.

How CSP helps US applicants who cross-file in Japan or South Korea

More often than not, it feels like trying to get past the USPTO is difficult enough. So why would anyone want to inflict more pain with an even more thorough prior art search by not one, but two examiners from two different countries? It seems that there are at least a few good reasons for considering CSP:

  1. CSP advances your utility patent application to the front of the queue, meaning a shorter time to the First Action on the Merits (FAOM), which might normally take between 1.5 to 2 years. This can possibly lead to significant time savings since other fast-track programs might not speed up the first Office Action.
  2. A more comprehensive prior art search generally leads to stronger validity of any allowed claims. Experienced patent litigators recognize that there is a greater chance of invalidating claims if you can introduce new prior art references that were not considered during the prosecution of the application that led to the granted patent. CSP would make it tougher to invalidate allowed claims.
  3. If an applicant has a counterpart patent application in Japan or S. Korea, then CSP may lead to a more streamlined examination process whereby the Japanese or Korean patent application may be granted sooner.
  4. It’s free to file a CSP petition.

Who should consider the Collaborative Search Pilot Program?

Applicants with counterpart patent applications in the US and either Japan or S. Korea may want to consider CSP. The goal is to end up with even more valid claims that have been vetted by two examiners across multiple patent offices. This more thorough review of prior art leads to a more rigorous examination of the applicant’s claims. The hope is that the validity of such claims would not be so easily challenged in future litigation.

CSP might not be a good fit for applicants seeking to obtain a US patent with fewer prior art rejections. For example, a different strategy might be to obtain the US patent first, and then file PPH in your counterpart application in Japan or South Korea.

What are the eligibility requirements for CSP?

Here are the requirements to be eligible for CSP:

  • Applicant must consent to permit the USPTO and its partner patent offices to share information (i.e., sending to and receiving from foreign patent office search results in US applications, and receiving foreign patent office search results and commentary in published US applications)
  • Claim limits: No more than 3 independent claims and 20 total claims
  • Directed to a single invention
  • Independent claims must correspond between patent offices
  • Earliest priority date must be post-AiA (March 16, 2013);
  • Application unexamined in both patent offices
  • Granted petition in both patent offices

How much does CSP cost?

Nothing. There are no government fees to file a petition.

When does the pilot program expire?

The current pilot is set to expire on Oct. 31, 2020 Oct. 31, 2022.

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