Not too long ago, the Australian Patent Office (IP Australia) decided to lend our cousins in the USPTO a hand. That was to help with the backlog there, which I'm sure all us professionals have felt.
That's not to say there wasn't a backlog here. But let's not get into that now...
Anyway, the help is in the form of our Examiners getting involved in the USPTO examination process.
That's had an interesting side-effect in the form of an adoption of a trial of the patent prosecution highway program between IP Australia and the USPTO. Information from the USPTO is available here: http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/pph/pph_ipau.html. Information from IP Australia is available here: http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/patents/international/pph_uspto.shtml.
The trial starts on April 14 this year and will be similar to the PPH that is currently in place between the US, Canada, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom.
All the information about this process is readily available at both the above links. But to summarize:
Where the USPTO is the office of first filing and the US Application contains claims that the USPTO considers allowable, then the applicant can request accelerated examination at IP Australia of the corresponding application. Likewise, where IP Australia is the office of first filing and considers claims to be allowable, the applicant can petition to make the US application special. This sounds like a helpful attempt to ease the interminable delays at both offices. Hopefully, it will be a roaring success.
Any comments about the success of the other PPH's run between the USPTO and other countries?