12 November 2012
With 450 participants from 42 countries, the 2012 EPO Patent Information Conference in Hamburg was a record-breaking success. The conference, held in Hamburg from 6 to 8 November, was the 22nd event of its kind, offering, like its predecessors, a unique opportunity to meet patent information experts, service providers and industry representatives from all over the world. This year, those attending included delegates from over 30 patent offices.
Beside the conference itself and various related workshops, more than 40 companies and institutions were present with exhibition stands to inform the public about their services. I always welcome this overview of the latest developments in patent information, with the opportunity to test new products on-site. The practical training sessions at this year’s conference were especially appreciated by the participants.
From the EPO’s point of view, the headline developments in 2012 were the launch of the Patent Translate service, in partnership with Google, and the final preparation phase for the Cooperative Patent Classification project with the USPTO, before the scheme goes live in 2013. We also informed the public about our continuous efforts to improve our search tools and enhance our databases. Our Espacenet service now provides free access to some 80 million patent documents. The high quality of our data is essential, not only to the direct users of the patent system, but also to researchers concerned with the economic and scientific impact of patents. For these purposes we have created the Patstat database, specially designed for use in analysing patent statistics.
In my view, it is crucial for patent offices and other patent system stakeholders to be active in the field of patent information. The focus tends to be on the grant procedure and its improvement. This is understandable, but I sometimes feel that not enough is being done to raise the general public awareness of patent information and its potential. This can distort the picture of the patent system, directing all attention to the legal protection enjoyed by patent holders and obscuring other aspects.
The positive feedback at the conference in Hamburg was very welcome, and will encourage the EPO to pursue its policy of dedicating all the resources needed to support patent information projects and activities.