27 September 2011
Last week, I had the privilege of paying my first official visit to Serbia, which became a member of the European Patent Organisation exactly one year ago. Serbia enjoys a long tradition of industrial property: in fact, it was one of the founding fathers of the Paris Convention signed back in 1883. It was therefore only natural for it one day to join the EPO. Although the EPO and the European Union are two different European organisations, accession to the EPO is seen as a first step towards EU membership.
In Belgrade, I had the opportunity to meet several of the key figures involved in IP in Serbia: Ms Totic, head of the Serbian IP Office and member of the EPO’s Administrative Council; Mr Delic, Deputy Prime Minister with responsibility for European integration; Mr Obradovic, Minister for Science and Education; and Mr Kovacevic, Rector of the University of Belgrade. At all these meetings I was given the distinct impression that Serbia is looking to the future, keen to attract investment and ready to develop its industrial and innovative capacity. This policy was underscored in the “Strategy for the development of IP 2011-2015” adopted by the Serbian Parliament in July this year.
The EPO has already been very active in Serbia, as in the Balkan region in general, through various co-operation programmes, some of them launched in association with the European Union. As a full member of the EPO, Serbia can count on our full support. This support will be intensified further if, as I hope, the co-operation roadmap I plan to submit later this year is approved by the EPO member states. I was also pleased to hear that the Serbian IP Office has already built up fruitful relations with the national patent offices of its neighbouring countries. As a convinced European, I have always felt that the shaping of Europe, which has too often in the past suffered as a result of its internal divisions, can only be achieved through shared objectives, concrete projects and good co-ordination.
The best way to create the mutual understanding needed for this ambitious project to succeed is through face-to-face meetings of all the partners involved. That is why I intend to continue visiting the EPO member states and encouraging direct contact with their representatives.