29 May 2012
WIPO’s PCT working group is meeting again in Geneva this week – a good opportunity to point out that the PCT has always been one of the EPO’s top priorities. First, we perform around 40% of international searches and 47% of international preliminary examinations at global level, so PCT work represents a considerable and growing part of our business. In 2011, the EPO received 71 432 requests for international search reports (up 3.6% on 2010). We therefore have an obvious interest in improved PCT procedures, and this will be the cornerstone of our co-operation with WIPO, and one of the main action points in our common MoU. Second, with 140 contracting parties the PCT is also a very inclusive international platform, offering a gateway to worldwide patent protection whilst at the same time respecting all national and regional systems.
The EPO is currently engaged in a major re-engineering of its processes, notably by defining the case management system I have already presented, and this exercise will also include our PCT work. Delivery of our new IT tools will start in the coming months. As regards the PCT legal and regulatory framework, some of our proposals have already been submitted to the WIPO working group for comment. They aim at offering new services and products to our users and at making our system more efficient.
For example, we consider that the principle of “equal service level” should be enforced: irrespective of their chosen route (Paris Convention or PCT), PCT users should enjoy the same level of service, in particular in terms of work quality, online services, access to information, and means of payment. Given the steady growth, in recent years, in both PCT filings and the number of international authorities performing work under the PCT, we also think it is very important to take steps to enhance the assessment of work quality, applying a comprehensive set of metrics.
Throughout this process, I would be very pleased to receive as much user feedback as possible, to ensure that we can address all needs.