Progress in practical harmonisation

12 June 2014

EPO President Benoît BattistelliThe latest IP5 Heads and Industry meeting, held last week in Busan, South Korea, was a good opportunity to assess the progress in implementation of our common projects. It was very encouraging to see that some important steps have been achieved within a few years of launching projects or pilots.

The EPO presented its component of the Global Dossier, which aims at making accessible to the public the complete file of a patent application, including the communications of patent examiners, and its family applications filed in the other four jurisdictions. Thanks to an agreement signed earlier with the Chinese IP Office (SIPO), the EPO service has now gone live, with Chinese file wrapper data retrievable and directly accessible via the European Patent Register. The USPTO, KIPO and the JPO announced that they will take the necessary steps for the Global Dossier to be fully operational at the five Offices by 2015 or 2016. This is a good example of how international cooperation can move straight from high-level discussions to the provision of specific tools.

Last year, the IP5 Offices already announced their intention to work towards the approximation of their practices and procedures, so as to make life easier for users, while reinforcing the overall quality of the patent system. In close cooperation with the Offices, representatives of industry in the five regions drew up a list of areas in which harmonisation could yield major benefits. In Busan, three of the key issues identified by industry were taken up by the IP5 Offices: unity of invention, written description/sufficiency of disclosure and citation of prior art. The first topic, unity of invention, for which the EPO and SIPO are joint leaders, will be addressed by a group of experts in China in October. This exercise is to be carried out in close contact with users, whose input will be sought in the coming months.

The stay in South Korea was also an occasion for the EPO to reinforce its partnership with KIPO, specifically with regard to data exchange and the implementation of the Cooperative Patent Classification. We signed an agreement on a training programme to support KIPO examiners in the transition to the new scheme. The two Offices also co-organised a seminar in Seoul on the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court. This event attracted a great deal of interest in the Korean user community, which was only to be expected, since Korean companies have been among the EPO’s top applicants for some years (Samsung and LG were Nos. 1 and 4 respectively in 2013).

The next IP5 meeting will be take place in China in 2015. In less than a decade, this informal gathering has gained greatly in significance, focusing more and more on tangible deliveries based on technical expertise, with an increasing involvement of users. This is clearly the best way to define sound, transparent and widely accepted solutions for a balanced evolution of the global patent system.

Benoît Battistelli

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