The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) is a program available to some patent applications that have entered the national stage. In order to qualify for the PPH program, the Office of First Filing (OFF) must rule that at least one claim in the application is patentable. Unlike the Accelerated Examination program, expedited processing does not have to be requested at the time of filing (pre-exam processing is not expedited under the PPH). The application must first undergo pre-exam processing before it is ready for examination. The applicant can then request that the Office of Second Filing (OSF) fast track the examination of corresponding claims in corresponding applications that are filed in the OSF.
One of the benefits of the PPH is that it accelerates the examination process for corresponding applications that are filed in participating questions. Examiners can reuse search and examination results, such as search reports or allowances, from the OFF. The result is a streamlined examination process.
Just how quickly can an application be processed? Once the application has completed pre-exam processing, it is ready for examination. The applicant then files the PPH request and a decision is generally made within two months from filing the request. Applications with granted requests are typically examined within two to three months of the granted request.
Another benefit of the PPH is the decreased costs of prosecution. There is no filing fee to request PPH in most countries (although there may be attorney fees to prepare and file the request). The overall expense of prosecution is generally lower. On average, applications under PPH receive fewer Office Actions compared to applications not under PPH, which saves both applicants and the Patent Offices time and money.
Applicants should be aware that PPH is not a guarantee that the application will be granted. Just because the OFF has allowed certain claims does not meant that the corresponding claims in the corresponding applications in the OSF will be allowed. Each OSF examiner must examine the application based on its own patent law. However, applicants may find some comfort in the success rate of the PPH in the USPTO – 98 percent of applications under PPH are allowed (compared to applications not under PPH, in which less than 50 percent are allowed). Although not guaranteed allowance, for PPH applications, the odds are certainly in your favor.