30 April 2013
Last week in Munich, we had the pleasure of holding the Patent Library (PATLIB) seminar. This event, first held in 1990, brings together a large number of patent information centres which form a pan-European network. The PATLIB centres are perhaps less well known than they should be, considering the pivotal role they play in disseminating patent information and providing practical assistance at a local level.
Besides giving access to a vast collection of patent data, the PATLIB centres also provide – depending on their resources – general services such as helpdesks and public reading rooms, or tailor-made ones like searches, technology watches and competitor monitoring. Many of the centres have expanded their activities beyond patents to include trademarks, designs and copyright.
Nowadays, Europe has well over 300 such centres, and that number is increasing every year. Because they are highly diverse, and also to help them make best use of the latest information technology, some two years ago the EPO launched a pilot project involving 17 PATLIB centres from 11 member states. The aim of this project is to help the centres evolve from their original “patent library” role and become first-point providers of information about patents, capable for example of delivering sophisticated searches including an explanatory search report which will be understandable for customers without experience in patent information. The ultimate goal is to improve the quality and exhaustiveness of the patent information provided to a wide variety of target audiences, such as SMEs, local government, academics and R&D personnel.
For this project, extensive distance learning material has been developed and will be made available to the entire PATLIB network. This meeting in Munich was a good opportunity to take stock of the progress achieved. A general review will be performed at the end of the year to decide how to proceed from 2014 onwards, but results so far are very promising. In the framework of the European Patent Network, EPO co-operation policy is driven by the principles of complementarity and efficiency. In this regard, the PATLIB centres, which are familiar with the needs and requirements of local industry and can work in the language of the country concerned, play a very valuable role.
The EPO attaches great importance to supporting the PATLIB network, which serves the patent system – and the public interest – by fostering a favourable climate for innovation.