The heads of the European Patent Office (EPO), Japan Patent Office (JPO) and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), known as the Trilateral offices, held their 38th annual meeting on 8 December 2020, hosted by the EPO. At the meeting, held for the first time via video conference, EPO President António Campinos, JPO Commissioner Toshihide Kasutani, and USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, discussed the outcome of their recent meeting with the Trilateral industry associations, consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and possible joint responses by their offices, as well as future directions of the Trilateral co-operation. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) also participated in the meeting in an observer capacity, with Ken Natsume, Senior Director, PCT Legal and International Affairs Department, in attendance.
The three heads of office reiterated the importance of working closely with industry to identify new ways to improve the international patent system for the benefit of users and society at large. The meeting was preceded by a virtual Trilateral industry meeting on 16 November, where the heads of office came together with industry associations from the three regions. At this meeting industry provided crucial feedback to the offices on how they could further improve their response measures and support for applicants affected by the pandemic. Trilateral industry representatives also shared their thoughts on possible future topics for Trilateral co-operation.
The Trilateral Heads of Office discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the patent system and office responses to these challenges and stressed the importance of having robust, predictable, reliable patent rights in the fight against the pandemic. The Trilateral offices agreed that patents play a critical role in the innovation process necessary to overcome the global health crisis. They expressed the view that co-operating in the promotion of a more effective patent system at a global level will bring benefits to the offices, their user communities and society at large.
Looking to the future, the Trilateral offices confirmed their commitment to working closely with industry associations in the three regions: to discuss innovative concepts for a state-of-the art patent system, to raise awareness of the benefits of IP to society, and wherever possible take a common approach in response to global challenges in line with users’ needs. They also agreed to embark on jointly developing, together with industry, a new vision and future direction for the Trilateral co-operation.