27 November 2013
The EPO has long seen the need to respond to the globalisation of the patent process, reflected in the ever-increasing proportion of patents filed in multiple offices and in the growing geographical diversity of prior art.
The IP5 has addressed these issues by developing systems that allow examiners to benefit from the regional and linguistic knowledge of their counterparts at other offices. Such cooperation will typically lead to a search that has used the strengths of the examiners at each IP5 office, particularly with respect to local prior art. This enhances the quality of the subsequent searches at all offices, with significant benefits for applicants and the public alike, particularly in terms of legal certainty.
One of these new tools is the Common Citation Document (CCD), enabling examiners and the public to view on a single web page the citations made by examiners from all IP5 family member applications.
Another such initiative is the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), which is now being used by the USPTO, EPO and SIPO. Since the classification is very fine-grained, examiners using the CPC can find relevant documents in a range of IP5 patent databases that would not have been accessible to them before.
A recent addition to the suite of examiner tools has emerged from the IP5 One Portal Dossier project. The purpose of this initiative was to develop the underlying exchanges of information between offices by enabling an examiner at an IP5 office to view the related dossier information of the partner offices. Access is provided not only to classification and citation data, but also to the complete file wrappers of each IP5 family member application. This makes it possible for the examiner to monitor the search results of colleagues at other IP5 offices and to review the reasoning and the approach taken. The tool also makes use of the EPO’s sophisticated machine translation facilities to render documents into a language familiar to the examiner.
As a next step, the EPO and its IP5 partners are planning to implement IP5-level tools for users and the public, as part of the Global Dossier initiative.
Collaboration programmes such as IP5, in which the EPO plays a leading role, have direct benefits for European industry. In the case of the One Portal Dossier project, access to IP5 file wrappers enhances the information available to our examiners, allowing them to target their search and examination work more precisely and even to complement the results of examiners at other IP5 offices. This in turn helps the EPO to deliver high-quality products, with a level of legal certainty that is praised not only in Europe but around the world.