Intellectual Property Rights:

U.S. Companies' Views on Patent Law Harmonization

T-GGD-94-11: Published: Oct 7, 1993. Publicly Released: Oct 7, 1993.

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GAO discussed U.S. companies' views on patent law harmonization. GAO noted that: (1) if patent harmonization is to be realized, the United States, Japan, and Europe need to fundamentally change their patent application and publication processes; (2) since 1980, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has attempted to negotiate a treaty that would establish patent harmonization, strengthen patent protection, and facilitate world trade; (3) the United States would have to adopt a first-to-file system and publish all patent applications within 18 to 24 months to comply with WIPO Treaty provisions; (4) in 1990, the Commerce Department recommended that the United States comply with WIPO treaty provisions; (5) both large and small U.S. companies have generally supported adoption of a first-to-file system and compliance with patent application publishing standards; (6) many U.S. companies support patent harmonization only if Japan agrees to make significant changes to its patent system because of significant problems in obtaining and enforcing patents in Japan; (7) if Japan is to comply with WIPO provisions, it needs to allow patent filings in any language, eliminate the pre-grant opposition system, adopt a 12-month grace period, and complete patent examination within 2 years; and (8) Japan supports patent harmonization only if the United States changes its patent process.

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