Meeting User Expectations

22 September 2016 - No comments »

Over the course of the last ten days, myself and other delegates from the EPO have embarked on an ambitious agenda of meetings with our users from around the world. Feedback from those attending the events, from Manhattan to Milan to Munich, has revealed that we are now in a phase where users’ expectations and the services delivered by the EPO are more aligned than ever before.

battistelli-ict-new-yorkAn integral element of creating this alignment has been to ensure that our users – whether inside or outside of Europe – have the opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of what the EPO can offer and how to make use of our services in the most efficient way. Similarly, we look for occasions on which we receive input and feedback. We have been able to do that within Europe through major conferences such as, PATLIB, EPOPIC and our annual user days, but other regions should also benefit from the latest information. Last week in New York, the EPO therefore organised its very first conference outside of Europe specifically to enhance knowledge of the patent application processes at the EPO in Information and Computer Technology. The goal was to equip users with the latest information on drafting applications so they have the best possible chance of leading quickly to a granted patent with the highest level of legal certainty. Given the potential savings in time and costs,  for the user and the EPO, it was an initiative in efficiency which received positive feedback from those attending.

Efficiency is a fundamental principle at the EPO and, at the annual meeting of the Intellectual Property Owners Association in Manhattan last week, I spoke further on why it has become more important than ever. Applications filed from the US last year increased by 16.4%. In addition, the EPO witnessed an overall increase across the board in our applicant countries of 4.8%. While this year’s statistics aren’t due until early next year, initial indications show that we will have experienced another such rise in 2016 – and there is no sign of the trend slowing. I was therefore delighted to share figures with our US users showing production at the EPO has risen comprehensively in the last two years. Such rises have helped to us to keep pace with increasing applications and to effectively manage backlogs. Meanwhile quality remains assured: at the EPO, we are unique among the global IP offices in that we do not outsource any of our core processes and deploy three examiners on every file.  By so doing, the EPO has retained its traditional high quality products and services while examining more files than we have ever previously. This can also be attributed in particular to the regular improvements to EPO examiner tools and positive cooperation with all our partners.

On Monday in Milan, I attended the AIPPI annual congress where over 1500 experts in intellectual property had gathered. Having been founded in 1897, AIPPI has a long heritage of bringing together some of the most influential experts and practitioners in patents and is a central meeting point for many EPO users. It was therefore an honour to follow the US visit by speaking to an auditorium of over 700 attendees from around the world. It was also the first major occasion in Europe since the expansion of the EPO’s Early Certainty initiative. The promise of far greater timeliness in the patent application process was warmly welcomed by those present. Over the coming years, the EPO will be working to ensure that we make good on our commitment of achieving the targets by the end of 2020.

Following these three major conferences was a constructive meeting with ASPI (Association Française des Spécialistes en Propriété Industrielle de l’Industrie) in Munich to gain further feedback on how the EPO can respond to the needs of those they represent and to discuss continuing developments in areas such as patent harmonisation and PCT.

The meeting marked the conclusion of a particularly intense period of dialogue with our applicants. However, that vital task of ensuring clear communication between the EPO and users to check first hand whether we are meeting expectations is never complete, rather an ongoing and essential exercise. I therefore look forward to reporting on many more such occasions in the near future and am always pleased to receive your feedback.

Benoît Battistelli

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