IP Cases & Articles

PCT(UK) Fast Track - UK IPO Relaxes Requirements

Following the discussion on ways to accelerate prosecution in the UK in our December 2011 newsletter, the requirements for the PCT(UK) Fast Track have now been relaxed following a new practice notice from the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO).

As regular readers of our newsletter may recall, the PCT(UK) Fast Track previously only applied to cases where the International Preliminary Report on Patentability (IPRP), or the Written Opinion of the International Searching Authority (WO-ISA), contained a positive opinion for all claims of the international application with regard to novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability. Thus, if one claim had received a negative opinion in the IPRP, the PCT(UK) Fast Track was not available to the applicant, even if this claim was deleted on UK national phase entry. This was therefore a very high standard to meet.

The UK IPO has now indicated that, from 8 June 2012, the PCT(UK) Fast Track will be available “where the claims on file in the UK national phase sufficiently correspond to one or more claims indicated as acceptable in the IPRP or WO-ISA”. Two of the key points in this relaxation of the requirements are:

  1. “sufficiently correspond”: a claim will be considered to meet this requirement when it has the same or a similar scope as a claim found acceptable in the IPRP or WO-ISA or if it is narrower in scope. However broader claims, claims in a different category (even if they correspond to claims found acceptable in the IPRP or WO-ISA), or claims not examined during the international phase will not be considered to meet this requirement.
  2. “one or more claims indicated as acceptable in the IPRP or WO-ISA”: this wording now removes the requirement that all claims of the international application should have received a positive opinion.

This relaxation of the PCT(UK) Fast Track requirements by the UK IPO is most welcome and, as the UK IPO has set itself the target of issuing a substantive examination report within two months of receipt of the request for accelerated examination on at least 90% of cases, the UK IPO is likely to see an increase in the number of PCT(UK) Fast Track requests in the future.