29 May 2015 - No comments »
Last week I attended the IP5 Heads of Office meeting in Suzhou, China, to discuss progress on a number of developments that are of primary importance to the five largest patent offices in the world. At the 8th meeting of its kind, Mr. Shen Changyu, Commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (SIPO), kindly extended SIPO’s excellent hospitality to other IP5 Heads and myself, as well as representatives from industry.
The meeting allowed us to check that policies remain productive, by examining key components of the IP5’s agenda: firstly, the progress that we have made to date, secondly, the ways in which we can continue to achieve results and, thirdly, the identification of future objectives.
Since IP5 cooperation began in 2007, it is evident that the joint cooperation of the offices has resulted in tangible progress on a number of issues. We now have a Common Application Format (CAF), which allows users to file patent applications in a standardised form and which is recognised by all IP5 offices. We have a dedicated IP5 Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), which allows a more timely examination of an application when it has already been verified as patentable at another IP5 office. The Common Citation Document (CCD) also brings all citations from a patent family together into one place for viewing by stakeholders.
Together with the launch of the Cooperative Patent Classification by the EPO and USPTO in the beginning of 2013 – and already adopted by numerous IP offices around the world – it is clear we have made solid progress in enhancing cooperation between our offices.
Yet our work in delivering a more cohesive system that improves coordination in the patent granting process, as well as in the field of patent information, is an ongoing process. We have to make sure that we continue to build upon our achievements. We therefore took an in-depth look at how the above initiatives could be further improved and agreed upon a set of actions. For example, the Heads of IP5 established that we need to make sure that the PPH is further optimised through the use of a common PPH form, to provide a more easy-to-use PPH program. The IP5 offices also decided that preparations should be made for a further expansion of the Global Dossier. Specifically, the participants were in agreement that the Global Dossier should promote barrier free access, a theme which ran through the IP5’s vision statement for global dossier priorities.
There was also an adoption of specific goals that the IP5 are working towards and that will provide benefits for the public. We have decided – and declared in the joint statement – that IP5 offices will continue to develop infrastructure and tools that will increase the sharing of work, thereby promoting efficiency. This includes a commitment to enhanced cooperation on practices in the fields of classification, search and examination, which will increase the quality of patent examination.
In addition to the IP5 meeting, Suzhou presented an extremely valuable opportunity for both industry and the IP5 to meet for the 4th IP5 Industry session. There was record participation by IP5 industry representatives, and I was particularly pleased to see European IP industry being well represented by organisations such as BusinessEurope. With their presence, the concerns and voices of end users were heard and fully integrated into our discussions. A fruitful exchange between the IP5 offices and IP5 industry representatives revealed that we share the same vision and priorities with respect to the projects being implemented and the goals we are seeking to achieve. There was unanimous approval and endorsement of the five priorities contained within the active part of the Global Dossier, and there is widespread expectation that the passive part will be finalised in mid-2015 with the integration of US data.
The EPO is a frontrunner in the deployment of such projects. It is natural that there are always challenges to overcome in the implementation phase of new initiatives. However, by sharing experience and expertise, it is our vision that all offices should be able to make good progress and make these services available to the users. In Suzhou, it became apparent that this was also a vision unanimously endorsed by industry. All parties agreed to focus on better implementation of the Unity of Invention standard embedded in the PCT, a project which the EPO and SIPO are leading. As such, the IP5 Heads of Office mandated the preparation of the methodology and to resume work at the working level.
Throughout our meetings in China, the impact on the user was a key theme and is, in essence, the true driver for further cooperation between the IP5 offices. From the strategic goals, such as improving coordination, removing barriers and improving efficiency, to the more specific aims, such as harmonising applicant names across IP5 patent document collections. All these measures are either in place or being assessed to ensure that the process of applying for a patent is less onerous for all those involved, especially the user. And that is very much the direction in which I hope we continue to move.
I look forward to the next IP5 Heads meeting in Japan next year where we can expect further interaction between the IP5 and industry. A more interactive exchange of views was something we proposed in Suzhou and this sentiment was endorsed by the other IP offices. It is critical that the IP5 hears how further cooperation by the world’s largest patent offices is perceived by some of those that the initiatives are designed to benefit. I am confident that with continued cooperation and ongoing work by the IP5 offices, we should be able to report back with further positive developments from the 9th IP5 Heads of Office meeting.