08 May 2012
It was my great pleasure to welcome WIPO Director General Francis Gurry to Munich last Thursday for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between our two institutions. In this MoU, WIPO and the EPO have agreed to create a dedicated framework for our various common activities. The basic idea is to improve our co ordination of those activities, so as to increase their efficiency and reduce as far as possible the scope for duplication. We plan to follow the MoU up soon by adopting an annual work plan setting out a number of specific projects.
At this stage, however, let me just briefly outline four of the areas on which we want to concentrate:
– PCT: a few years ago, Francis Gurry launched the PCT roadmap for reforming this important international patenting tool. The EPO has always been very supportive of this process as we consider the PCT to be the most appropriate platform for patenting at an international level. Indeed, the EPO receives most of its filings via the PCT route and, in our capacity as an International Searching Authority, we perform 40% of all PCT work. So it is one of our top priorities to make this filing route as attractive and efficient as possible for users, and we plan to make a number of related proposals in the coming months.
– Patent Information Dissemination: this is an area in which we are particularly active because we see barrier-free access to comprehensive patent information as essential if we want the patent system to support innovation and deliver the best possible products and services. Taking full advantage of the easy exchange of data made possible by electronic tools, we hope to ensure that the databases available to the public are as complete as possible.
– Classification: the EPO and the USPTO are working hard on ensuring that our common patent classification scheme – called CPC – will be ready for its planned launch on 1 January 2013. The CPC will have more than 210 000 categories for classifying all kinds of patent documentation, which will allow offices with the necessary resources to do an extremely thorough search. It will also mean that it is more detailed than the International Patent Classification (IPC), which is administered under a WIPO treaty. But one of the CPC’s major advantages will be that, despite offering greater detail, it will also be fully compatible with the IPC. To ensure such compatibility, we have agreed with WIPO to set up a dedicated platform facilitating the exchange of the information we need to develop the CPC in line with the IPC.
– Co ordinated co operation activities: given our respective expertise and co operation programmes, the EPO and WIPO are both major players when it comes to helping to develop the patent system worldwide. However, it often happens that we are very active in the same regions and with the same stakeholders, and it is questionable whether this work in parallel is always the most efficient way of doing things. That is why we have decided to improve the co-ordination of our activities by consulting at a very early stage, namely as soon as we start planning possible activities for the following year. This will enable us to ensure our activities cover a broad range without overlapping.
These are just some examples of the measures covered by the MoU. I am especially pleased to see this agreement between WIPO and the EPO, two institutions which not only have the potential but are also willing to make the improvements needed to render the global patent system more efficient and more balanced.