The European and UN patent-handling bodies have agreed to join forces to encourage companies and inventors to file their designs under an improved worldwide Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
The treaty allows intellectual property registered in one nation to be acknowledged in other countries that have signed up to the pact, so that companies don't have to go around applying for patents all over the world.
The European Patent Office (EPO) and the United Nation's World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) said they have have signed a comprehensive three-year technical cooperation agreement aimed at improving how the PCT works and the way patents are granted.
"As leading international authorities in patents and IP, our organisations have a particular responsibility to promote the development of efficient structures and procedures in the international patent system in order to facilitate the grant of high-quality patents," EPO president Benoit Battistelli said in a canned statement.
"Creating a barrier-free patent information system and improving the dissemination of technological information to the public are a further essential step to foster innovation with the help of the patent system."
The bones of the agreement pave the way for, among other things, the ability to exchange all documents electronically and putting various bits of patent information online for the treaty's countries to access.
The PCT has been signed by 140 countries, including China, the US, the UK and Germany. ®