23 June 2016
2016 is an important year for bilateral cooperation; it is the tenth year in which we have held an annual bilateral cooperation meeting, since the first of its kind was held in 2007 in Vilnius, Lithuania. I was therefore delighted last week to be in Tirana, Albania, for our annual meeting with the EPO’s member states. With the kind organisational assistance of the General Directorate of Patents and Trademarks (GDPT) of the Republic of Albania, we were able to take stock of the progress we have made so far and build our future cooperation on a solid basis.
We are now five years into our Cooperation roadmap, since the policy was launched in 2012. Through this roadmap, we have succeeded in signing 32 Bilateral Cooperation Plans with member states. Focusing on three key areas (training, patent-related IT services and tools and patent information services and awareness) they have delivered a host of benefits for our users through over 200 individual projects. As a direct result, we have been able to provide, for example, more extensive and harmonised data from national registers to our users, through initiatives such as the Federated European Register, EPOQUE NET and Quality at Source. Such initiatives have served to ensure the completeness of data and enhance legal certainty throughout the patent system in Europe. And through our joint training initiatives, the EPO and member states have ensured greater awareness and access to specialised patent knowledge so that our users can profit from the latest information and skills.
The value of this cooperation is recognised throughout our member states and this was evident in the high attendance in Tirana. Over 32 offices participated in the meeting, 15 of which were represented by the heads of national offices, as well as EUIPO. With both heads of offices and cooperation specialists present, it was a valuable occasion on which to profit from substantive discussions. There, for example, we were able to focus on the identification of end-user services already operational in some member states and that could be applicable across the European Patent Network. All those present were also able to benefit from the experiences of other national offices, who gave insightful presentations on subjects such as IP pre-diagnosis projects, IP initiatives for SMEs and regional IP information centres.
During the visit, I had the opportunity to discuss these developments and a new working agreement on searches with Ms Milva Ekonomi, Minister of Economy, Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship and also meet with Ms Milena Harito, Minister for Innovation and Public Administration. With their support, it is evident that Albania’s IP system will continue to develop positively and, as with all our member states, the country continues to bring great commitment to the European Patent Network.
After ten years of annual bilateral cooperation meetings and five years into our roadmap, it is now apparent that success is being achieved by developing the European patent system on one hand and supporting the development of effective IP tools at the national level to stimulate economic development. In effect, this guiding principle of ‘complementarity and subsidiarity’ is more and more becoming a reality in Europe in the delivery of quality patents.
Categories: International co-operation