The Trilateral Offices process the greater part of all patent applications filed worldwide, including PCT applications.

In the early 1980s, faced with a dramatic rise in the number of filings, the Trilateral Offices devised specific measures tailored to their needs. Each office engaged in projects to implement new technologies to economically store, efficiently process, and rapidly distribute very large amounts of data.

Since they shared the same problems and goals, they started to propose a co-operative approach to solving common challenges. The result was the creation of a unique and highly effective international cooperation framework: the Trilateral Co-operation.

Initial progress was made by exchanging know-how and establishing standards for exchanging data files. The Trilateral Offices then worked together to produce new databases and new systems for exploiting them.

The joint creation of new information systems and the collection of data in electronic format by the Trilateral partners gave way to a new generation of information products and services. These were initially conceived for internal use by the Trilateral Offices, but it soon became evident that availability could be extended to public libraries and the general public. Following years of discussions, the following policy was adopted: the dissemination of patent information products at marginal cost.

The next challenges faced then were the paperless administration of the patent procedure, the exchange of documents and the electronic filing of applications.

In 2001, a significant event occurred at "The Trilateral Meeting for Workload Reduction of Offices and Associated Costs" in Tokyo, which was that the Trilateral Offices decided to make efforts to develop possible measures for reducing the workload.