18 November 2013
Last week, in Brussels, the EPO and OHIM held a joint seminar on the essentials of IP for EU officials. I was delighted to see that this event attracted some 130 participants, from the EU institutions, national governments and IP offices, indicating the strong awareness within the European policy-making community of the crucial role of IP and the importance of a solid basis of fact for policy discussions. The two-day seminar was the second in a series of inter-institutional initiatives launched last year with OHIM, with the aim of fostering a better knowledge and understanding of IP issues and challenges among key players in public institutions throughout Europe.
Half of the audience was drawn from a wide range of departments of the European Commission, testifying to the relevance of IP across EU policy areas. The further attendees included representatives of the EU member states, senior IP officials and members of the European Parliament. This combination of differing interests and vantage points made for a lively and extremely fruitful exchange of views, both with the lecturers, comprising patent law practitioners, academic lawyers and economists, and among the participants.
Holding the seminar in Brussels, in cooperation with the Belgian IP Office, offered an opportunity to present the EPO’s mission to the EU institutions and to reach a broader audience of EU officials. In the context of ongoing discussions on the implementation of the unitary patent package, our aim was to provide an overview of the European patent system, setting out the essential facts and highlighting the central role of the EPO.
The seminar served, moreover, as a platform for sharing insights with members of the EU policy-making community about recent developments in important patent-related policy debates, such as the current discussions of the Select and Preparatory Committees and the EU trade negotiations. For example, the EU representatives in charge of the negotiations on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership had an opportunity to exchange views directly with IP specialists. This, to me, seems exceptionally important and valuable.
The spotlight was also on the results of the recent joint EPO-OHIM study, confirming the importance of IP and patents for all citizens in Europe. The participants agreed that IP must be a cornerstone of our continent’s innovation and industry policy. Raising IP awareness in Europe is a major task which needs a fully coordinated policy involving actors at European and national level, with particular emphasis on the national patent offices. The EPO is committed to support the efforts in this area and will continue to provide the necessary information and expertise.