25 November 2011
Last week, I had the pleasure to attend the 12th meeting of the EPO Academy’s Supervisory Board, made up of representatives of the EPO member states, partners such as the EU Commission and the WIPO and (soon) OHIM academies, and patent professionals from the European Patent Institute (epi) and BusinessEurope.
This institution is particularly dear to me, not only because I served as the board’s first chair when the Academy was launched in 2005 but more importantly because I consider it an excellent practical illustration of how the EPO can help to develop a “patent culture” in Europe.
Today, just a few years on, the Academy has already proved a great success. So much so that a year ago, in November 2010, Germany’s Institute for Invention awarded it the Diesel Medal 2010 in the “Best innovation promotion” category for its wide range of theoretical and practical training in patenting issues.
The Academy’s job is to co-ordinate all the EPO’s external training activities, in close co-operation with national institutions active in the European patent system. Its courses and seminars are tailored to the varied needs of a wide range of players in innovation and patents: national patent office (NPO) and other public-sector staff, government institutions, patent attorneys, judges and other legal professionals, and academics and students in universities.
I think that one important reason for the Academy’s success is that it seeks to help its partners where invited and to add value to existing training initiatives, in accordance with the principles of complementarity and subsidiarity. So efforts are pooled, not duplicated. After all, the NPOs are best placed to identify suitable partners at local level.
Since I became EPO President last year, we have stepped up this area of our work, increasing the funding available (to a total of €3.5m in 2011, 40% up on 2010) and facilitating access to the training provided (publication of a catalogue setting out all the programmes on offer, development of e-learning kits). The first results are very encouraging; this year has seen a dramatic (110%) increase in the number of trainees compared with 2010. Looking ahead to the future European Patent Court, the Academy could also have a major role to play in defining and implementing training programmes for the court’s judges.
And with our new co-operation policy focusing on three main areas – training, common front-end IT tools, and patent awareness – here too the EPO Academy’s contribution will be crucial.