12 January 2016
For the sixth year in a row, we have witnessed a growth in the demand for the EPO’s services in terms of both filings (around +1%) and applications for patents (+5%). These figures for 2015 are preliminary and we look forward to publishing more detailed figures at the beginning of March. Against this backdrop of increasing demand, the Office took last year a number of measures that helped us to retain our position as a high quality service provider and achieved results that show we are responding to the demands of the modern IP system.
Final assessments indicate that the EPO will have dealt with over 364,000 search, examination and opposition products in 2015, a +14% increase compared to the previous year. So too has our timeliness improved in the delivery of those high quality products and services. For example, we witnessed a reduction in the backlog of Priority one group files from 35.030 to around 10.500 products, an improvement of 70%. There was also a steady and significant increase in the number of International Search reports (ISRs) for PCT chapter one filings being delivered on time. 87.1% of ISRs are now delivered within 3 months of the dossier being received and represents a significant increase given the extremely high volume of files.
At the end of 2015 we were delighted to receive ISO 9001 certification for Patent Information, resulting in quality certification for the entire patent process. We are therefore the first – and only – office in the world to apply such an extensive and rigorous standard to our quality certification process. The attainment of this certification also demonstrates that while the EPO is facing an increasing workload, the quality of our services that is recognised by many stakeholders has remained as high as ever. It’s a fact supported by the surpassing of our internal targets for quality compliance in both search and examination. Hence our DQA Quality audit compliance index is at 96,6% in search (above the 2015 target of 95%) and 85,0% in examination (equal to the 2015 target of 85,0%).
These key results in quality, timeliness and productivity have ensured that the European Patent has continued to prove as attractive as ever to new territories, such as Morocco and Moldova, which became validation states on 1 March and 1 November respectively. Our commitments outside of Europe and to harmonisation also saw great progress through further take up of the CPC and progress on the Global Dossier. The external aspect of our work was also highlighted in 2015 with the signing of a new bilateral agreement with SIPO to continue our projects together, having already celebrated thirty years of cooperation.
But while the EPO has successfully worked with our international partners, a number of our own member states have worked in cooperation with the EPO to finalise preparations for the next significant development in patents in the European Union itself. With the support of the EPO, the Select Committee last December agreed a complete secondary legal framework comprising the implementing rules, and budgetary and financial rules for the unitary patent. It was a hugely significant occasion for the European patent system which means that we are now legally, technically and operationally ready to deliver the unitary patent. With the successful ratification of the UPC Agreement by the remaining member states, 2016 really could be the year in which innovators the world over start to benefit from the distinct advantages the unitary patent is set to deliver.
These are just a few of the substantial achievements that have been made this year, to which can be added many others such as new online services, unprecedented levels of transparency and ground-breaking studies to name but a few. Yet I am proud to say that the price of these improvements has come at no extra cost to the user. Through the internal reforms we have undertaken to improve the efficiency of our organisation, our own prices have remained stable since 2010, other than small inflation adjustments. Furthermore, we have successfully ensured that the price of our main procedural fee – the PCT search fee – has been frozen since 2012 (meaning a -5,3% decrease in actual terms), and it will be extended to the PCT Examination fee as from 1st April 2016. It is positive news for innovation in Europe, which will continue to benefit from the highest quality products and services at stable rates.
We will work hard to ensure that our organisation continues to improve even further in all areas in 2016 so that users can continue to rely on our quality and efficiency.