Forging closer ties with our Asian partners

03 March 2014

EPO President Benoît BattistelliLast week, in Tokyo, I had the pleasure to address Japanese IP specialists from industry at the annual meeting of the Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA), which brought together hundreds of JIPA members from all over the country. The EPO enjoys a long-standing relationship with Japanese firms, who have been major users of the European patent system from the very beginning. They have consistently been amongst the leading filers for European patents, and currently make up 20% of the total (in second place, after the US with 25%). Over the last ten years, they have increased their filings by 50% – a strong growth trend which we expect to confirm when we present our 2013 figures on Thursday. I also had the opportunity to meet the board of the Japanese Patent Attorney Association, an organisation with over 10 000 members.

My discussions in Tokyo showed that there is a great deal of interest amongst Japanese users in recent developments in the European patent system, especially the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court, and in the EPO’s ongoing efforts to further improve the effectiveness of our searches in Asian prior art. Nowadays, EPO examiners can consult a database of 30 million documents from Japan, China and South Korea, giving them almost 100% coverage. Last year, 20% of the documents cited in our search reports had an Asian priority. A bilateral meeting with our colleagues at the Japan Patent Office impressed me with their busy schedule in response to a comprehensive reform of IP legislation, to be passed by the Diet in the coming months.

The same willingness to modernise and improve the efficiency of patent systems has also driven the negotiations between the ASEAN countries and the EPO which led to the signature, later last week in Cambodia, of a general memorandum on ASEAN/EPO co-operation. ASEAN covers a region of 616 million people that registered 5.7% GDP growth last year, and is currently implementing its 2011-2015 IPR action plan. EU member states are the biggest source of foreign direct investment in the region, and file 30% of all patent applications received there. So it is only logical to strengthen those links by creating a dedicated framework for patent co-operation. The EPO also offers a good example of how to maximise efficient interaction between local and regional players.

With the Asian economies – whether mature or emerging – continuing to grow, we shall continue to work hard to broaden and deepen our two regions’ co-operation in the patent field.

Benoît Battistelli


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