26 June 2013 - No comments »
Since my arrival at the EPO in 2010, I have put strong emphasis on making the Office more user-friendly. This is happening in several ways: for example, in providing new IT tools that help applicants to follow the processing of their patents. The feedback we have received so far has been very positive. We are also witnessing a steady increase in the number of visits to our website and the take-up of our internet services. For instance, the use of Espacenet, our web tool for searching patents, rose by 26% over the first four months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. A further example: since the launch of our new Patent Translate service in February 2012, the number of translation requests has increased by leaps and bounds, to an average, now, of 150 000 per month.
However, apart from making improvements in the daily management of patent applications, I think it is equally important to pursue our regular contacts with users on more general and political issues. Last week I had the welcome opportunity to meet three groups of users in Munich and hear their views. On 19 June, the EPO hosted the annual meeting of the Standing Advisory Committee before the EPO (SACEPO), bringing together a wide range of experienced patent attorneys and practitioners from industry to conduct a general review of EPO activities and projects over the past year. SACEPO came into being in 1978, at the same time as the Office, and is a highly valued institution. Beyond these formal meetings, the contacts with our different users are frequent and conducted at different levels of the Office, involving the President and Vice-Presidents, managers, patent examiners and/or legal experts. We find these various contacts extremely fruitful and we will make every effort to maintain them.
In addition to its meetings with user groups, the EPO is now trying to develop the dialogue by making better use of new electronic facilities. Recently, we set up a web-based platform for conducting user opinion surveys, which has already proved very helpful. In the past six months, a number of important topics have been addressed, including patent law harmonisation, PCT matters and divisional applications. The response rates are high and we firmly intend to continue these regular web consultations.
Improvements are continually needed to enhance transparency and ensure that the public is fully informed about our many projects and reforms. Keeping a website with so many different services updated is quite a challenge in itself. Here, your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I encourage you to submit your suggestions and comments.