15 May 2012
Last week, the EPO’s Economic and Scientific Advisory Board (ESAB), which was set up in January, held its two first workshops in Munich. They brought together some 40 participants from a variety of professional backgrounds (industry, patent attorneys, academics and economists) for frank and lively discussions about two particularly contentious issues – patent quality and fee policy – selected by the ESAB members earlier. The views expressed and proposals made reflected the very broad range of opinion that exists on these topics amongst the different stakeholders.
And that was exactly what we had in mind, because the purpose of this new body is not to gather like-minded people together but to challenge ideas and make progress by establishing the facts in evidence-based debate. As a next step, we will be publishing detailed reports of the proceedings as soon as possible. Of course, this kind of event has its limitations, and can make no claim to exhaustiveness. But one particularly interesting point for me was the broad consensus among the participants that there should be no substantial change in our fee policy.
The ESAB’s work will feed into our thinking about how the patent system might develop, and will certainly improve our understanding of its economic impact. Our goal is to make sure that the patent system remains fit for purpose, supporting the innovation process and the economy whilst also taking into account the other interests at stake. That is no easy task, but it is my conviction that patent offices cannot stay in their bubble, and input such as ESAB’s will help to ensure that we don’t.
The next ESAB workshop – on patent thickets – will be held in the autumn, and I am sure it will again give rise to lively debate and valuable pointers for the future.