06 June 2013
For many years, industry has been calling for international harmonisation of the patent system – an understandable demand that has been further amplified by the accelerating pace of globalisation. Harmonisation can take various forms, focusing on substantive law and/or technical cooperation, and can be discussed in bilateral or multilateral frameworks. Whatever the approach may be, the main aim in my view must be to achieve concrete results that will benefit a wide community.
I am particularly pleased, therefore, by the outcomes of the discussions between the EPO and the IP offices of the US, China, Japan and Korea at this week’s IP5 meeting in Cupertino, in the heart of Silicon Valley. First, two major developments were announced in relation to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), co-managed by the EPO and the USPTO. The patent offices of China and Korea officially stated their intention to begin classifying their patent documentation into the CPC, from January 2014 in the case of SIPO, while the Korean Office will start with a pilot for specific technical areas. This will dramatically improve the patent system at the global level: in the medium term, 75% of the world’s prior art will be classified by the same scheme. A comprehensive, precise and regularly updated patent classification system represents the best basis for high-quality searching.
A further important step was taken with the launch, on 4 June, of the English-Japanese language pair in Patent Translate, the EPO’s free-of-charge web-based machine translation service. Given the importance of Japanese documentation in technology, this development – the result of intensive cooperation with our colleagues at the Japan Patent Office – will be greatly appreciated by users. About half of the total of three million Japanese patents have already been loaded into our Espacenet database and are now instantly accessible in English translation; the rest will follow soon.
Finally, a number of projects within the specific framework of IP5 are moving steadily forward. The adoption of a common patent information policy based on barrier-free exchange of data between offices is an especially significant development. I would also like to draw attention to the progress on the Global Dossier initiative, in particular concerning access to patent family files from the different offices through a federated viewer. Once again, a full day of the meeting was devoted to exchanges with representatives of the IP5 business communities, whose input is always highly valued.
The next IP5 meeting will be held in Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, at the beginning of June 2014. In the meantime, the various working groups will continue to discuss the issues involved in international harmonisation at the technical level.