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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Russia’s patent agency signed an agreement to allow the Russian agency to conduct international searches and preliminary examinations for international patent applications filed at the PTO. The PTO has yet to specify when it will implement the Sept. 22 agreement. The accord gives entities that file international patent applications at the PTO a less expensive option for searches of so-called “prior art” — published information about the subject matter of a claimed invention. The agreement was made under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which allows international patent applicants to obtain a patent filing date in numerous countries by filing one international application. The Russian Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks, known as Rospatent, plans to charge $449 for an international search. That’s about half of the next cheapest option for international filers at the PTO, said Scott Kamholz, a patent and trademark lawyer at Boston’s Foley Hoag. International patent applicants at the PTO can also opt to ship international searches to South Korea’s patent office, which charges a little more than $1,000 per search, Kamholz said. Aside from using the PTO, which charges $2,080 for a search, such filers can also opt to have international searches done at the patent offices of Australia or Europe. The PTO indicated that the international search prices are as follows: $2,185 for the European Patent Office, $1,605 for Australia and $1,092 for South Korea. Some filers, particularly major companies, use the U.S. or the European Patent Office because they perceive there’s a higher quality search, but many smaller entities go for the lower-cost option, currently South Korea, Kamholz said. South Korea’s patent office has been “absolutely inundated” with international search requests stemming from PTO filings, Kamholz said. It often misses the 16-month deadline for international patent searches, but not by many months, he said. In a press release, PTO director David Kappos stated that the agency looks forward to “providing additional choices to U.S. applicants in the near future.” PTO spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin Byrne said the agreement “would contribute to reducing the backlog and shortening pendency.” Although Kamholz believes his clients will be delighted with this development,” he doesn’t think it will do much to trim the PTO’s massive patent application backlog. That’s because major corporations are not as concerned about price differences for international patent searches and many international searches are already taking place outside the United States, he said. “The fact that there’s now another source is not going to draw more of these cases away from the U.S.” The PTO doesn’t do many international searches at its own offices, said Robert Budens, president of the Patent Office Professional Association, the patent examiners’ union. “It doesn’t directly affect the examiners,” Budens said. “It’s more of an additional choice for patent applicants.”

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