22 October 2012
In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet two important delegations of users, one from Japan – with JETRO acting as a co-organiser – and the other from the American Bar Association. US and Japanese users account for a large proportion of filings at the EPO (44% of the total in 2011), so we always look forward with keen interest to our exchanges with them, which can take the form of a general discussion on the evolution of the patent system or the clarification of a specific technical issue.
In these regular meetings with users, I have noticed that one word in particular is continually mentioned: quality. The quality of a detailed search report, communicated at an early stage, is clearly of crucial interest, especially for companies with a global, PCT-based patenting strategy, looking for a comprehensive overview of the prior art at international level.
The EPO has always set great store by the PCT, and we are currently seeking to raise the level of our PCT-related services. A number of proposals to this end were submitted to the WIPO PCT Working Group earlier this year. We are also very interested in hearing feedback on this from our applicants, and, in general, from the users of the patent system. At the beginning of October, we launched a dedicated online consultation on PCT matters. I strongly encourage all of you to read our proposals and to share your views with us.
In the recent exchanges with non-European users, I have also found that the prospective unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court are attracting a lot of interest and attention. The overall approach seems to meet with approval. This is unsurprising, as the proposals are designed to simplify access to a system which, to users from outside Europe, can appear extremely complex.
I shall continue to value our direct contacts with all the users of the patent system, European and non-European alike. Although user feedback cannot be the sole driver of our reforms, which have to consider the interests of the public as a whole, it will undoubtedly help to enhance our services.