11 October 2016 - No comments »
Earlier this week, I reflected on our recent meeting with SIPO and how close cooperation with other patent offices can yield initiatives and projects that deliver tangible results for our users. For the last few days, myself and a delegation from the EPO have been at the WIPO General Assemblies in Geneva where we set about enhancing this cooperation with current and new international partners alike. We embarked on a series of meetings with patent offices that spanned, quite literally, the four corners of the Earth. There are few engagements in the annual calendar that permit such an extensive agenda of appointments with a vast swathe of our international partners. I am happy to report that we capitalised on the opportunity and signed agreements with patent offices from nearly every continent.
Firstly, the EPO was able to sign Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) Memoranda of Understanding with Malaysia, Russia and the Philippines, in addition to the launch of the PPH pilot with Colombia which came into force on 1 October. Implementing such arrangements is an integral part of our strategy to facilitate efficient processing of patent applications to and from parts of the world outside Europe. These new arrangements complement those already in place with the IP5 offices (China, Japan, Korea and US) as well as Australia, Canada, Israel, Mexico and Singapore. They enable innovators from the regions involved to obtain patents faster and more efficiently, thereby boosting innovation and trade. But in order to ensure reciprocity and to support our own innovators, European companies also benefit from simplified access to patent protection in those countries. Such measures help us to ensure that the number of patents being applied for by Europeans in other regions remains high so that our enterprises can profit from the dynamism of foreign markets.
In addition to the PPH, further Memoranda of Understanding were also signed with Rospatent, extending its participation in the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), and the Eurasian Patent Office (EAPO), which decided to join this endeavour, allowing for more harmonised classification of patents between patent offices. The MoUs were also complemented by annual workplans which guide and enhance further our cooperation. Other notable commitments during the week included a meeting with South American countries, which have been vital partners in the dissemination of patent information to the region through the LATIPAT project, and a meeting with European representatives of Industry in the B+ group who are working hard on Substantive Patent Law Harmonisation. All in all, in just three days, there were over twenty individual engagements, with representatives of more than forty countries. Among those was also a meeting with our IP5 and WIPO counterparts, where the Heads of Office discussed the future main topics of the IP5 cooperation leading up to the tenth meeting, which the EPO will have the pleasure of hosting in Malta in May 2017.
The growing intensity of this international cooperation – and the projects it produces – increases positive feedback from the users, as applying for patents around the world becomes gradually more harmonised. In Geneva we also had the opportunity to gather feedback from other offices and to discuss the respective measures that we are all undertaking, whether unilaterally, bilaterally or multilaterally, to offer improved services and better products. Greater efficiency, better quality, increasing timeliness, deeper international cooperation: the underlying sentiment is that the EPO’s efforts to advance international cooperation and the continuous improvements in its services are widely appreciated and acknowledged by our users and our colleagues all over the world.