The Japanese and U.S. patent offices have reached a basic accord aimed at reducing duplication in their work, Japanese patent officials said Wednesday.

The Japan Patent Office envisages striking as early as 2004 a mutual recognition agreement on patents with the United States, the officials said. It would be the first such agreement between industrialized countries.

Patent applications received by the Japan Patent Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are often duplicates of each other, as the number of companies filing for patents in both countries has increased, the officials said.

The duplication has increased workloads to an unacceptable level, prompting the two countries to seek to eliminate the overlap, they said.

The number of patent applications submitted in Japan rose to 440,000 in 2000, from less than 400,000 three years earlier. U.S. applications in Japan numbered 12,000 in 2000.

Applications in the U.S. rose from 220,000 to 300,000, of which 50,000 were filed by Japanese concerns, they said.

Similar duplications occur worldwide, with around 5.1 million applications filed globally in 1998 for 180,000 inventions, the office said.

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