09 March 2012 - No comments »
If you try to describe Europe in just a few words, “diversity” will almost certainly be one of the first that comes to mind. And in many ways the European Patent Organisation mirrors Europe and its recent historical, economic and social development. To take a topical example, I have just had the great pleasure of taking part in celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Estonian Patent Office.
Many patent offices in this part of Europe were first set up when their countries achieved independence after the First World War, but were then closed down during the occupation period which started around 1940 and lasted more than 50 years. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Estonian statehood in 1991, the national patent office reopened on 10 March 1992. Its founding director general was Matti Päts, grandson of Estonia’s president in the 30s, and he is still in post today. Starting from scratch back in 1992, he has built up, step by step, what is now a very modern, service-oriented patent office. During the 90s he also oversaw an impressive upgrading of Estonia’s legal framework as the country ratified many international treaties on intellectual property.
In 2002, Estonia joined the European Patent Organisation. That offered Estonian innovators attractive opportunities for marketing their inventions throughout Europe. And the build-up of the Estonian office went hand in hand with a national strategy aimed at improving the local innovation environment. So it came as no surprise to me when an Estonian inventor, Mart Min, was nominated for the European Inventor Award 2011. The European patent system had enabled him to protect his inventions which related to a completely new method and device for measuring electrical impedance and have had an enormous impact in fields such as medical diagnostics and current detection.
In only 20 years, Estonia has shown that opting to build a sound patent system can produce impressive results. I wish them many more years of success. And their success is not just a national one; the entire European patent system benefits from improved environments like this. Which is also why the EPO recently decided to further reinforce its co-operation work with its member states, notably through a 30% increase in the funding available.