11 June 2012
Following a tradition initiated by the USPTO when it organised the first yearly IP5 meeting in 2007 in Hawaii, I had the pleasure to welcome my colleagues last week on another island – Corsica. This particular location helped to create closer links and a better understanding between the world’s five largest patent offices – the EPO, and the Offices of the US, Korea, China and Japan -, together with WIPO in its observer capacity.
The outstanding aspect for me was that, for the first time in the IP5 meetings, a full day was devoted to discussion with user representatives from the five regions. This was an excellent opportunity to hear feedback from users on our current projects and to get their input on plans for the future. We had already established relationships with the Trilateral users’ associations (BusinessEurope, IPO / AIPLA and JIPA). Building on this experience, last week’s meeting enabled many of us to find out about the Korean association (KINPA, created in 2008) and its Chinese counterpart (PPAC) – a further sign of Asia’s growing importance in patent matters.
As to the outcomes of the meeting, it was interesting to note that all the users, from whatever region, delivered very similar messages. They wanted patent offices to simplify formalities, to standardise proceedings and practices, to improve access to patent information and to enhance quality. The task of IP5 now – in my view its main task – is to translate these demands into concrete projects with a clear timetable.
Particular praise was heard for the rapid progress of the Cooperative Patent Classification project, co-managed by the USPTO and the EPO, which is advancing towards the definition of a global standard in this field. Improving the PCT, as the main international platform for patents, is also seen as a top priority: here, the shared objectives include facilitating the use of the PCT and upgrading its quality. Complementing this objective, a joint medium-term goal is to build a common environment with a unique virtual gate to assist the protection of an invention in different regions. This ambitious project, known as “Global Dossier”, brings together existing IP5 projects, such as the One-Portal Dossier, but will also involve the development of new IT tools and the redesigning of patent processes. For its part, the EPO is preparing the way for this initiative through the implementation of its IT Roadmap, which has already delivered new facilities, such as the Mailbox, allowing for full on-line interaction between the users and the Office.
The meeting in Corsica was, first, a stock-taking exercise, offering a chance to assess the concrete progress made during the first five years, from 2007 to 2012, of IP5. Second, it provided a new impetus for the future, paying closer attention to input from users. In both respects, it was very successful, and confirmed my feeling – shared, I believe, by all the participants – that the IP5 cooperation activities are becoming ever more important for the world patent system.