Countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have embarked on their first regional cooperation in Intellectual property, specifically in patents, by introducing ASEAN Patent Examination Co-operation (ASPEC). There are eight participating IP offices from: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Once a search and examination report is issued by any of these countries, the applicant may use the report to file an ASPEC request in another member state. The report from the first IP Office will be used as a reference. However, the second IP Office is not obliged to adopt any of the findings or conclusions made by the first IP Office. At the moment, there is no additional fee to file ASPEC Request.
ASPEC was initiated to fulfil the following objectives:
- Reduced work and faster turnaround time. Reference to earlier work could help an examiner to develop his search criteria or strategy more quickly, reduce searching and assist the examiner to understand the claimed invention faster. Faster prosecution of the patent application is, therefore, possible.
- Better search and examination. The other patent authorities might have access to databases unavailable to the examiner (e.g. specific technical databases, local databases, databases in other languages). Therefore, the opportunity to refer to these search and examination results could provide the examiner with information on an assessment of prior art which he or she would otherwise not have access to.
This programme may result in faster prosecution of the patent application. However, it is to be noted that the second IP Office is not obliged to adopt any of the findings or conclusions reached by the first IP Office.
ASPEC is in no way similar to PCT as ASPEC in itself does not issue any search and examination report or written opinion. In a nutshell, ASPEC is merely a co-operation between the participating ASEAN countries to exchange examination reports which might be beneficial for the receiving IP Office to be used as a reference. This pilot project is still on a trial-run and the success of this project will depend very much on the examiners of the individual country. Once the national examination body can produce a report or written opinion which is on par with their counterparts in more sophisticated countries, then it may be an alternate way of expedite applications in ASEAN.