WIPO Agrees to Support South American IP Project
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) agreed earlier this month to support a pilot project by nine South American countries to integrate their intellectual property programs. The initiative, which goes by the name PROSUR (System for Regional Cooperation in Intellectual Property), formed in January with the objective of “developing a common platform that will enable integration, the exchange of information, and the compatibility of participating office’s computer systems.”
WIPO will support the nine PROSUR members- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay- by developing the necessary infrastructure (including the use of a new technology platform called WIPO-CASE), training patent examiners, and strengthening inter-state cooperation efforts.
WIPO-CASE, the Centralized Access to Search and Examination system, has been developed by WIPO to provide a shared electronic library of search and examination reports that all participating offices can access. This pilot system was used for the first time last week, when it was launched by the IP offices of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. By enabling offices to share the results of examinations, the system should reduce the time wasted, expense, and patent backlog caused by processing duplicate application files in multiple offices. It remains unclear how soon PROSUR’s offices will begin using the platform.
According to internet sources, PROSUR’s regional collaboration project initiative will begin with a cooperative test, wherein 300 biomedical or mechanical patent solicitations will be shared with two or more member countries. Patent examiners will then share their search and examination results with their counterparts in other IP offices. For the time being through, each country’s IP office will remain autonomous, deciding on its own whether to grant the patent.
Although the prospect of a streamlined patent process spanning South America seems exciting, the concept also elicits some questions. For example, is there any possibility that the initiative will lead to a decreased ability on the part of IP offices to make independent decisions? As much as regional cooperation is a lauded goal, any impingement on an individual office’s autonomy could have worrisome consequences. However, it will be interesting, in the meantime, to see if the upcoming cooperative test is successful and whether other South American nations will want to join PROSUR.