03 December 2013
The cooperation between the EPO and the patent office of China (SIPO) dates back almost 30 years, to the signing of the first cooperation agreement in 1985. The bilateral Heads meeting held last week in Beijing was a further example of the longstanding and excellent relations between our two Offices.
Reviewing our recent cooperation activities, we agreed that the picture was very positive, noting in particular the intensive use of the English-Chinese machine translation facility introduced in December 2012 as part of our Patent Translate service. More than 40 000 connections per month involve this language pair, with the combinations English to Chinese and Chinese to English accounting for equal proportions of the total. We signed a comprehensive work plan of cooperation activities for 2014, together with an agreement on the implementation of EPOQUE in the updated version launched last year. SIPO has been using EPOQUE for many years and will now be able to benefit from the new features of the EPO search engine. SIPO is also steadily implementing the new Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), with completion scheduled for 2015. This is also excellent news, considering the growing volume and importance of Chinese patent applications in the global patent system (by 2015, national applications are expected to reach an annual total of 1 million).
By opting for the CPC and the new EPOQUE, SIPO has made some very clear choices in patent examination standards, and the EPO will continue to support its Chinese colleagues in their efforts to further improve the quality of the patent process.
My visit also provided an opportunity to meet the user community in China. I had the pleasure of hosting a meeting with a group of major Chinese applicants at the EPO, mainly in the fields of telecommunications, IT and digital equipment. A general message emerging from this meeting was that Chinese users have very positive expectations regarding the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court, but very much hope that the new litigation system will be constructed in a way that avoids importing into Europe the patent troll practices encountered in other regions. In response to this, I re-stated my conviction that the experts on the Preparatory Committee are fully aware of the issue, remembering also that the frameworks of legal tradition and principle in Europe are quite different from those prevailing in the countries where such practices have arisen.
During a meeting at the EU Delegation, representatives of the European business community in China pointed to a need for clarification regarding the patent examination process in China, specifically in connection with the implementation of a new rule governing the treatment of non-Chinese prior art. The European patent system provides for very wide recognition of foreign prior art, whatever the region and language of the document. This, in our view, improves the overall quality of patent applications worldwide, which is vital to the flourishing of our increasingly globalised economies.
The honorary professorship awarded to me by Renmin University of China stands, in my view, as further testimony to the excellent relations between SIPO and the EPO. I was delighted to accept this honour on behalf of the Office as a whole.
The close relationship between our two Offices, sharing tools and best practices, has been further reinforced in recent years and will continue to be of strategic importance for both partners in addressing the common challenges of the patent system.
Categories: International co-operation