12 April 2016 - No comments »
Last week, I was in London to discuss a range of matters with Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the UK Government Minister for Intellectual Property. Since her appointment in May 2015, we have always enjoyed a constructive relationship and last week’s discussions were equally productive. On the agenda were also the reforms that the EPO has put in place over the last few years. It was acknowledged that they have been instrumental in boosting the quality and efficiency of our patent granting process. It was also a timely opportunity to outline the Office’s social agenda for this year, including a comprehensive assessment of the progress that we have made to date and a social conference – initiatives both welcomed by the Minister.
In addition to this meeting, I was also privileged to be able to address a large audience of our users at the Union-IP dinner. Around 130 participants, including patent attorneys, solicitors and barristers, IP professionals, industry representatives, and civil servants were present. It was a valuable occasion on which I was able to talk about the progress that we made in 2015 and the ways in which we are consolidating those gains to bring further benefits to our users in 2016.
Such occasions are an essential means to gather feedback from our users on our current projects and initiatives to improve our services yet further. It was with great interest, therefore, that I received question on matters that were deemed crucial to our users, such as timeliness and reform of the Boards of Appeal (BoA), which was subject to a public consultation last year. Both of these issues are firmly on our radar for 2016, as we assess ways in which to further improve timeliness in the patent granting process and how to increase the efficiency and independence of the BoA.
The discussions with the Minister and the feedback from our users at the Union-IP dinner highlight once again the paramount importance of close and continuing dialogue at all levels. Whatever the format – whether bilateral high-level visits, formalised bilateral cooperation plans or meetings with user associations – it is that dialogue that enables us to identify what measures need to be taken to deliver more benefits for our users. It is that constant exchange of information that ensures the effective implementation of a host of innovative projects in partnership with Member States, from CPC to the Federated European Patent Register, which was launched last April.
One of the most striking examples of this cooperation recently has also yielded arguably the most exciting development in patent administration in recent history – the forthcoming unitary patent. Tireless work in the Select Committee, supported by the EPO, has ensured that the EPO is technically, legally and operationally ready to deliver the unitary patent. When it comes into force, users, such as those who I met recently in London, will benefit from lower costs and greater legal certainty offered by a system that has been prepared with member states to best represent the needs of users.
Major achievements such as these are only possible with the on-going support of our member states and I am convinced that together we will continue to make great strides in supporting the vibrant innovation sectors throughout Europe.