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Published by IFIA
the International Federation of
Inventors' Associations


First published   February 14, 2002
Last update   March 19, 2002


My lecture on the idea of a World Patent (Helsinki, May 18, 2001) is certainly not the first one on the subject. Articles had already been written by experts and discussions had taken place in different interested circles. In this IFIA Internet page, I shall recall (i) a 1993 high level Symposium of the Trilateral Cooperation(EPO, USA and Japan), (ii) some recent initiatives and discussions which took place in the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and (iii) some views expressed by a number of experts.
Dr. Farag Moussa, President of IFIA
Geneva, February 12, 2002


USA - Japan - EPO
October 26, 1993, Munich Tenth Anniversary of Trilateral Cooperation : Symposium


April 15-17, 1998, Beijing Symposium on the International Patent System in the 21th Century
May 4-5, 2001, Geneva Industrial Advisory Commission
Since September 2000 PCT Reform process [under preparation]


Spring 1999


Gerald F. Mossinghoff
Former Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks (USA)
December 1999


Hisamitsu Arai
Former Commissioner, Patent Office (Japan)




Tenth Anniversary of Trilateral Cooperation : Symposium
Munich, October 26, 1993

We reproduce hereafter some of the interventions made at this Symposium by high level representatives. These relate to the first question which was discussed, namely "a vision of an enhanced value of a globalised patent." (highlighted by us)

Mr Bruce A. LEHMAN
Commissioner, US Patent and Trademark Office
(…) in terms of vision I think I can say unequivocally that my vision is that we would have a
global patent at some point and which one in fact could go to one of the Offices or perhaps a universal patent Office. (…) And you would get a patent that would cover the world. But that's a long way off. In getting there, of course, then we talk about a single search (…)". (highlighted by us.)

Mr Lehman continues by saying that "it is very hard to conduct a (single) search without having a harmonized legal system which is the basis for the search." He then adds that until the "larger legal harmonisation problems" are resolved, a "single search is unlikely to take place."


Mr Wataru ASOU
Commisioner, Japanese Patent Office
(…if) the harmonisation in search methods (develops) then it could lead to universal granting of a patent, which might in turn, lead to the creation of a world patent office." (highlighted by us.)


Mr Gert LÜCK,
ABB, Chairman of Patent Management Team. (Switzerland)
(…) industry will not wait. Industry is developing very quikly. The market is already global today, and so I also think the patent system could and should develop a little bit more quikly. And, if I may make also a remark with regard to the ideas to have a Trilateral search team and to have a world patent office, I am also a little hesitant to believe in this, because in industry today, people think more about decentralised structures. And, I think a world patent office somewhere in the world, maybe in Geneva or somewhere else, would not function at all. You should have decentralised institutes working together and recognising each other." (highlighted by us.)




Symposium on the International Patent System in the 21th Century
Beijing, April 15-17, 1998

Dr. Arpad Bogsch, Director General of WIPO, referred to the world patent in his introductory remarks to the lectures of the Symposium, while Mr. François Curchod, Deputy Director General, gave a talk on a possible PCT Patent.

Dr. Arpad Bogsch (extracts)

Wipo_DrBogsch.jpg (16692 bytes)The tasks for the coming century will be to perfect the present systems further. Naturally, the simplest solution would be the grant, by one office, of patents valid in all countries. I do not think that this is within the bounds of possibility, but one can and indeed will come close to that situation in one or more of the following ways : first, by increasing the number of countries belonging to the same regional systems; second, by increasing the number of regional systems; third , by recognizing the validity of a patent in a given country even if granted by an office other than that of the country or of the regional system to which the country belongs; fourth, the same as the third, but subject to each country's right, for specific reasons, to refuse such validity as far as it is concerned.
Naturally, there is an underlying condition that will determine the progress of internationalization. That condition is the unification of data bases and of search and examination methods as long as there is more than one patent-granting office, that is, until and unless there is a world patent. (highlighted by us.)

Dr. Bogsch concluded by stating:
The proposed improvements are naturally in the interest of users of the patent system. Without such improvements, the use of the patent system will be so complex and expensive that, as indicated at the beginning of these remarks, the system will become unusable in practice.

But solutions do exist. All that is needed is the political will to depart from the present routine and innovate
(highlighted by us.). And innovation, after all, is a notion that must be acceptable to a system dealing with inventions.

Mr. François Curchod presented, on behalf of WIPO Secretariat, a lecture entitled A proposed Protocol on "PCT Patent". In this lecture, Mr Cruchod presented the main characteristics of this new "possible initiative", as another step towards a "world patent"
(highlighted by us.)):

While a world patent, in the sense of a truly global patent granted by one authority with an automatic and binding effect in participating countries and regional Offices, remains an ultimate goal, we do not feel that it is realistic to expect to achieve that goal yet. But the time is ripe for an intermediate and more modestly ambitious step which, if successful, will pave the way to the achievement of that ultimate goal. The strategy behind this new initiative of the International Bureau (Secretariat of WIPO) is to establish a "win-win" situation in which all interested parties would gain without any of them losing anything.

The essence of the proposal is to extend the operation of the PCT system further into the national phase so as to allow applicants to obtain from the International Bureau, on the basis of the results of the international preliminary examination, a title of protection having the effect of a national or regional patent. Such a title of protection is hereinafter referred to as a "PCT patent." Some of the key features of the new "PCT patent system" which we envisage (as distinct from the present PCT filing system) would be as follows:

(a) Participation in the new system would be optional for both applicants and Contracting States (in much the same way as Chapter II of the PCT is optional now).

(b) A PCT patent would have effect only in those States which decide to participate in the new system and which the applicant elects for the purpose of the international preliminary examination and additionally indicates for the purpose of the PCT patent procedure ("indicated States").

(c) The grant of a PCT patent would require international preliminary examination to have taken place; therefore, only Contracting States bound by Chapter II of the PCT would be eligible to participate in the new system.

(d) Only applicants from States participating in the PCT patent system would have the option of making use of it.

(e) Any Contracting State which participates in the PCT patent system could do so on the basis that it would only be bound by a PCT patent if the international preliminary examination report had been prepared by the IPEA, or by one of the IPEAs, specified for the purpose by that Contracting State.

(f) The effect of a PCT patent in any "indicated State" would be the same as a national or regional patent granted by or for that State, subject to certain clearly defined possibilities for the Office concerned to refuse the effect of the PCT patent at an early stage.

These points and other questions were thereafter addressed in this lecture.

Industrial Advisory Commission (IAC)

This newly created independent advisory body in WIPO referred to the idea of a world or global patent in its discussions at its Second session (September 13, 1999) and Third session (May 4 and 5, 2000).

The Report of the second session includes under "Future Work" the following:
The Patent System in the Twenty-First Century. Several members of the Commission emphasized the importance of studying means of reducing the cost of obtaining and maintaining patent protection, as well as the need to consider the possiblity of introducing a global patent (highlighted by us.)
At its third session the IAC adopted a resolution urging WIPO member states to explore ways to lower costs of obtaining and maintaining intellectual property rights in multiple countries. To note the following passages of that resolution.
URGES the members States of WIPO to adopt a work program for the development of a more comprehensive approach to the reduction of the costs of obtaining and maintaining intellectual property protection in multiple countries, particularly through
i) (…)
ii) Futher exploratory work on the possible introduction of a PCT certificate of patentability and work, in the long term, on the development of the legal framework for a world patent (highlighted by us.)


Mr Gerald F. Mossinghoff

Former Commissioner of the US Patent and Trademark Office

At the Yale Symposium on Law and Technology (Spring 1999), the former Commissioner of the US PTO gave a lecture on the "World Patent System Circa 20XX, A.D". Section IV of this lecture is entitled "Essential Characteristics of a World Patent System". These are in brief:
(a) A unitary patent granted by regional patent offices of the World Patent System. This would be a world, or global, patent (highlighted by us.) granted by one of the regional offices around the world.

(b) There would also be a first-to-file priority system.

(c) The third essential element of a world patent system would be provisional applications. For a nominal fee of US $75.00, an inventor can file a provisional application - a full technical disclosure of the invention without patent application.

(d) The fourth component of a world patent system would be a one-year grace period so that an inventor can publish or commercialize his or her invention and still have one year in which to file a patent without having the inventor's own work be used against him or her.

(e) The fifth characteristic of my proposal is quite controversial, but sensible - using English as the universal language for the examination and enforcement of patents.

(f) Another important element of a world patent system is a single electronic database of prior art, cataloguing what has been done and published before.

(g) Finally, a world patent court will be essential to a world patent system.

In the next Section of his lecture, Mr Mossinghoff listed the additional issues that need to be addressed and resolved before an effective global patent system can be established, and experts working together will be able to solve every one of these.

Mr Hisamitsu ARAI
Former Commissioner of the Japanese Patent Office (1996 -

In a book published by WIPO in December 1999 (Intellectual Property Policies for the Twenty-
Century - The Japanese Experience in Wealth Cr
eation), Mr Arai, then Vice-Minister for International Affairs (MITI), wrote the following in his chapter 6 (A Global Patent Scenario - pages 59 to
62) :

Business is becoming increasingly global. (…). Thus it is only right that patent protection should also be global.

The JPO, USPTO, and EPO have been meeting annually since 1983 (…). At the meeting held in The Hague in 1996, Japan proposed that they also study the idea of a global patent (highlighted by us.), in line with the multinationalization of business, and this idea was well received by both the United States and Europe.. (…) This will be basically a four-stage effort.

Website_Japan_Arai_Chart.jpg (15125 bytes)The first stage is to get agreement on the sharing and mutual recognition of prior art search results. (…)

The second stage is to recognize each other's patents. A patent that has been granted in Japan, for example, should be recognized in the United States, and vice-versa. In a way, this is very similar to the way automobiles or electrical appliances that meet one country's standards are accepted for use in the other country as well. (…)

The third stage is to implement trilateral patents between the U.S., Europe, and Japan. And the fourth stage is to extend this worldwide, to provide a truly global patent system.

This is the basic road map on the way to global patents. There are, of course, many problems that have to be overcome. (…) Yet science and technology know no national borders. The time is right for global patents that will be respected worldwide.


Achieving a global patent system will require an approach quite different from the traditional treaty negotiations. The WIPO has 171 member states, and it would be very unwieldy to try to negotiate a new treaty with all of them.

Thus, a de-facto approach has been suggested whereby the three core patent offices first create a de-facto global patent. The creation of a global patent does not have to mean the creation of a World Patent Office in Geneva with tens of thousands of examiners and other employees. There is no reason why the work cannot be de-centralized and handled locally

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