logo2.jpg (2744 bytes) 2002: WIPO PATENT AGENDA & the idea of a WORLD PATENT

Published by IFIA
the International Federation of
Inventors' Associations
Budapest, Hungary


First published   June  25,  2002
Updated   May 16,  2006

In a circular dated December 14, 2001, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) invited interested governments, organizations and users to submit comments on his document (A/36/14) entitled "Agenda for the Development of the International Patent System", hereafter called "WIPO Patent Agenda". Later WIPO established a special Website at http://patentagenda.wipo.int with the objective to promote discussion of the issues (31 Questions) as widely as possible, and convened a Conference on the International Patent System (Geneva, March 25 to 27, 2002).

This special IFIA Webpage is limited to the idea of a possible World Patent, which appears in Question No 2, under the heading "General policy and structure of the international patent system." The Question, drafted in very "prudent" terms, reads as follows:

Subject to progress on the substantive harmonization of patent laws, should there be an adoption of procedures where substantive rights could be granted under an international recognized procedure?

The answers refer some times directly, but more often indirectly, to the idea of a World Patent. We only quote the positive answers.

IFIA written comments
Other written comments
Extracts of lectures at the Conference
WIPO Document


IFIA Written Comments

Towards a World Patent

IFIA participated actively in the recent PCT reform process, which was initiated by the USA. Whenever possible, IFIA supported ideas and proposals which could lead, one day, in the long run, to a kind of world patent. The exact name of such an international patent system is not important. Meanwhile, IFIA has adopted the expression "world patent", a friendly-user term for inventors.

IFIA is of the opinion that the WIPO Agenda should include a clear reference to a world patent, which should be the ultimate goal of any international patent system. Such a long-term objective is in no way in opposition to short term and medium term objectives.

IFIA has already launched an Internet Discussion Forum on the subject, since July 10, 2001. See special IFIA webpage www.invention-ifia.ch/WorldPatent.htm

This forum starts with a lecture on the idea of a World Patent given by IFIA President, Dr. Farag Moussa, in Helsinki, on May 18, 2001 (text available on Internet in English, with presently translations into French, Russian, Spanish, Serbo-Croat and Macedonian). It is followed by a list of references to printed or online magazines from different countries, which have reproduced this text. These include the official Quarterly Gazette of the Industrial Property Protection Office of Macedonia.

The next two sections of this IFIA webpage concern the reactions of inventor associations and individual inventors, as well as those of other circles, to IFIA President's lecture on the idea of a World Patent. All in all, these comments reflect wide support to this idea. On February 15, 2002, IFIA webpage had already published 32 testimonies (15 pages A4 size) from 25 countries listed hereafter in their alphabetical order: Argentina, Bosnia, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Georgia, Hungary, Libya, Macedonia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Romania, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Togo, Uruguay, USA.

Extracts from other written comments

(Highlighted by IFIA)

  1. Patent Offices (P.O)

    Australia P.O.
    Ultimately, yes Differences in legal systems and precedent across the various juridictions may make complete harmonization difficult, particularly in the area of enforcement. But similarities are generally greater than differences and so this should not prevent some form of global patent grant being considered.
    Such a grant would have to be sensitive to different needs, including different stages of development of countries and different types of applicants. Alternatively, the grant of a patent in an office could be the basis for a grant in all designated offices, with designated offices having a time-limited option to perform extra search or examination to address local issues.

    Bulgaria P.O.
    Patent law harmonization should result in the grant of rights by an internationally recognized procedure, first through development of the existing PCT procedures.

    Czech Republic P.O.
    Creation of such internationally recognized procedure would facilitate and simplify the procedure for the applicants.

    Denmark P.O.
    Yes, we should work towards a system, where substantive rights can be granted under an internationally recognized procedure.

    Hungary P.O.
    In the long run, subject to progress on substantive harmonization of patent laws, the possibility of adopting procedures where substantive rights could be granted under an internationally recognized procedure will have to be examined. This system should contribute to increasing legal security.

    Remarks by IFIA:
    1. The government comments of Japan were submitted to WIPO by the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN in Geneva (and not by the Patent Office as such).
    2. Comments from Japan start by answering to the following clear title : "Towards Realization of World Patent" and concludes its analysis by referring to a very modern concept, namely that of a "virtual world patent system" : "… not the centralized office collecting the present offices' facilities but the virtual office based on a networked linkage of the present offices' facilities."
    3. The main reference to the world patent appears under a sub-section entitled "Expansion of the PCT system" which reads as follows: "(…) the practical approach to realize the international patent granting procedures toward the world patent system should proceed separately into two cases: PCT route and Paris [Convention] route. Therefore it is considered that this cannot be implemented sufficiently just by improvement and expansion of the PCT system."

    United Kingdom P.O.
    In the long term, patents in many countries should be granted either directly through an international system such as the PCT, or else with as little further national examination as possible following an examination to internationally recognized standards. However, we acknowledge that significant further harmonisation will be necessary before any international instrument to this effect could usefully be adopted.

    United States P.O.
    A long-term objective of patent law harmonization must necessarily include the grant of rights under an internationally recognized procedure. However, the proliferation of bureaucracies to achieve such an objective should be avoided.

    B. Non Governmental Organizations

American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)
Yes. The ultimate goal should be an internationally recognized procedure that could be carried out by any one of a plurality of examining authorities that would be given effect in all countries party to an agreement establishing such procedures.

International Association for the Protection of Industrial Property
The Patent system should provide for a multiple choice of national, regional and international patent systems.

Greek Group of AIPPI
Subject to progress on substantive harmonization of patent laws, there should be an adoption of procedure, where substantive rights could be granted under an internationally recognized procedure, so that the requirements and standards applied by the various Patent Offices in various countries be the same.

Oxfam (GB)
WIPO should promote wider debate among governments and public interest groups about the implications of global patent harmonisation especially as it relates to the development of centralized patent applications and grant procedures before moving ahead with this agenda. Such discussion is vital given the current inherent imbalances in the international patent system whereby the majority of patents in developed and developing countries are granted to companies in rich countries, and the negative impact this imbalance has on weak developing economies.

Trade Marks Patents and designs Federation
Provided that international harmonisation of both law and practice is achieved and that PCT international search and examination are sufficiently improved, states could recognise international grant under an augmented PCT on an optional basis.

Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE)
In the revised structure of the international patent system, no national phase examination should be carried out anymore if the PCT search and examination are based on internationally agreed upon patentability standards laid down in the SPLT, and carried out by an organisation that is trusted by the various designated states. An independent quality control mechanism should be ensured. Moreover, after a positive PCT examination, the "international patent" thus obtained should be administrated by WIPO, just as in the Madrid system for trademarks and in the Hague system for industrial designs.


Extracts from lectures at the WIPO Conference

USA (P.O.)

USA_Rogan(USPTO).jpg (2424 bytes)James E. ROGAN
Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)
March 26, 2002

The idea of an international patent system based on mutual recognition of a single patent granted from a single application is not new. In the United States, for example, the 1966 findings of the President's Commission on the Patent System stated, "the ultimate goal in the protection of inventions should be the establishment of a universal patent, respected throughout the world, issued in the light of, and inventive over, all of the prior art of the world, and obtained quickly and inexpensively on a single application, but only in return for a genuine contribution to the progress of the useful arts."

The application and maintenance costs of a patent are particularly burdensome for individual inventors and small businesses around the world, often precluding them from obtaining rights beyond the borders of their own countries. The duplication of effort involved in grating patents can be particularly harmful to developing and least developed countries where scientists and engineers can have more effect on economic growth working in their areas of expertise, not examining patent applications.

Just as Rome was not built in a day, we take heart that the process of constructing an international patent system, while slow, has been steady. The importance of this issue is such that it cannot be ignored. I fully intend, during my tenure as Under Secretary, to make this issue a priority and assume a leadership role in its promotion and ultimate resolution.

We believe additional reform would go a long way toward reshaping the PCT as a vehicle for global patenting.


WIPO Document

Section IX of WIPO Document (No. A/37/6 of August 19, 2002) submitted to the Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO (September 23 to October 1, 2002) is reproduced hereafter


What is a Global Title?

187. A global title could take many forms, each bringing its own advantages and difficulties. At its most basic, this could be simply a system granting a bundle of national patents which from that point are independent and administered by national authorities in exactly the same way as conventional patents. Alternatively, further administrative matters might be included, similar to the Hague and Madrid systems for designs and marks, so that a central register was maintained showing the status in different countries.

188. The term could also embrace more ambitious systems, where a unitary "world patent" was granted and considered centrally for enforcement and validity across all the participating States. This could only be approached if the States had a great deal of political will from the outset since it would involve significantly greater difficulties of sovereignty and jurisdiction than a basic system of grant.

The Prospects

189. It is clear that few people see even a basic system of international grant as a realistic goal in the short term. Many States are proponents of this in principle, but they see it only as a long term goal, requiring a complete harmonization of laws on patentability in the participating States. Even if close harmonization were achieved, a number of States feel that there are significant issues of sovereignty at stake such that they would not wish to join a system in the foreseeable future where international examination was any more than a recommendation as to patentability. It was also pointed out that entry into such a system should be a matter of choice according to the particular needs of each individual Member State. Consequently, a system along the lines of the current one should remain available for as long as any State demands it.

190. Nevertheless, it is clear that at least a common system of grant is a heartfelt wish of most users of the patent system, though most stress that this would have to be a robust system backed by full harmonization of laws on patentability (as interpreted by national courts) and consistently high quality of search and examination. For individuals and small companies especially, enforcement of rights even within their own country is difficult and often impossible. Internationally, they find that it is out of the question.

191. In principle, neither a limited deviation from total harmonization, nor matters of sovereignty, would have to provide an insuperable obstacle. Harmonization would need to be deeper than at present, but it is not essential that it be absolutely complete. As long as the options available were sufficient to allow States to include the requirements most appropriate to their particular policy needs, yet simple enough that an examiner could divide cases into clear categories without confusion, it would be possible to envisage a system where a patent was granted in two different forms for different categories of States, or else granted for some States but refused for others. Clearly this system would not be as simple to use or administer as one where the requirements were absolutely uniform, but might still be easier than pursuing separate applications in each State.

192. Furthermore the matter of sovereignty could be addressed using provisions similar to those which exist in the Madrid and Hague systems for marks and designs. The system might include provisions allowing Contracting States the opportunity to refuse the application within a limited time after the application had been "provisionally" granted by an international authority. It should also be remembered that in this basic form any patent could also be revoked in actions before a national patent office or court. More difficult than this would be the setting up and recognition of bodies competent to handle appeals from the decisions of the International Authority examining the application.

193. Any system of centralized grant would also need to consider what other elements should be included at an international level. Administrative matters, such as maintenance of a register, may be desirable, creating a system similar to the Madrid and Hague systems.
194. The needs of third parties should also be considered as well as those of applicants. It has been suggested that the convenience for applicants which would be afforded by the creation of any centralized process for grant of patents ought to be mirrored by providing a system of centralized opposition or invalidity challenges. Of these, an opposition system within a limited period would be seen to impact less on sovereignty, since it would be part of the process leading to grant. Either possibility would raise a large number of practical issues which would need to be considered in great detail if such a proposal were to be further considered.

Systems for Adopting Change

195. The PCT system at the moment provides a system for creating international search and examination reports, but these are non-binding opinions, which States are not required to act by granting a patent. In principle, the Treaty could be fundamentally amended so that the end result was binding on the Contracting States (subject to review, such as appropriate appeal mechanisms, opposition systems and invalidity actions). However few, if any, Contracting States would currently be in a position to ratify such a system and some feel it unlikely that they ever would be. Consequently attempting to "force" change in this way would be likely either to leave the system in an unworkable "2-track" state for a very long time or to have the result that the changes might never come into force at all.

196. Consequently, it seems likely that changes to the existing system will need to be ones which make the process of making an application easier and more effective, but leave in place the fundamental proposal that the end result is normally merely a non-binding opinion, but leaving open the option for individual Contracting States to decide to take the system further with respect to themselves. This may allow Contracting States to ratify changes to the Treaty without concern that it fundamentally changed the obligations which they were undertaking.

197. A "global title" could then be built up to the extent to which different participating States were comfortable using optional protocols. A first protocol might cover the creation of a system of international grant covering the participating countries. This might include the appointment of bodies to act as an appeal tribunal against unfavorable international preliminary examination reports, and preferably to take opposition proceedings, so that those concerned by the grant of rights should benefit from a similar centralization of results. It might also include provisions allowing Contracting States to require national processing of applications in certain situations, such as where it was felt that national law deviated in a significant way from the PCT standard.

198. Another protocol might allow for the common administration of such patents, forming a common register (though the entries for each State would be determined by the courts of each State). If a great deal of confidence were achieved among enough States, yet another protocol might then be envisaged providing for centralized tribunals dealing with matters of enforcement and invalidity. It is clear however that this is a long way off.

199. Any amendments made to the PCT system should not preclude a global title as an option if sufficient Contracting States wish it, allowing for further developments for those States who want to go further, for example by way of optional protocols. The desire for, practicality and extent of a global title should be reviewed when the SCP has reached conclusions on the degree to which harmonization of substantive patent law can be achieved.

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