It seems that the patent offices in both the US and the UK are going to be starting a little experiment, where patents that are being applied for in both countries can have the review process sped up once the patent is approved in one of the countries
. Basically, this "Patent Prosecution Highway" (yes, that's what it's called) is designed to speed up the backlog of patents by allowing examiners in one country to speed up their review by simply relying on the work done in the patent office on the other side of the Atlantic. The UK patent office has already run a similar project with the Japanese patent office. It all sounds nice, and the idea of speeding up the patent granting process could ease some of the current backlog. However, it certainly seems like it could be pretty risky. If a patent is accidentally granted in one country when it shouldn't have been, doesn't that just make it easier to get approved elsewhere? Assuming that more countries get involved in this Patent Prosecution Highway... and companies begin to discover that one country's examiners are a lot more lenient than others, how long will it take for most companies to first apply in the "friendly" country and then use this system to fast track their patents everywhere else? Since patents are granting a rather complete monopoly, doesn't it make sense that they should be thoroughly reviewed before being granted?