The global relations of a European office

12 October 2015

EPO President Benoît BattistelliLast week I was in Geneva for the Fifty-Fifth Series of Meetings of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Assemblies. It has been a hugely productive few days. A packed agenda of meetings bore testament to the truly international nature of the patent system. From the very outset and initial intellectual property agreements, the patent system has always required international action. However, global trade, ever-increasingly complex innovations and expanding prior art encourage us, more than ever, to retain a truly international outlook. The EPO is dedicated to the provision of patents in Europe but it is international cooperation that helps to ensure those same patents are legally robust, regardless of innovative developments in the rest of the world. We are also committed to working with international partners to create greater harmonisation in the international patent system.

Rarely has that been more evident than in the halls of WIPO last week. During the many meetings I had, it also became clear that patent offices are increasing their focus on quality and timeliness. As many of you are aware, these are two of the EPO’s priorities; delivering a high degree of legal certainty within a reasonable time frame and at a reasonable cost are the cornerstones of a well-functioning patent system. The EPO is working with many other offices from all over the world to achieve this and this week at WIPO, there were tangible results in these fields.

On Tuesday I met with Director Michelle Lee of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to renew our joint commitment on Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC). Signing a Memorandum of Understanding has ensured the extension of our cooperation into the future on what is a vital aspect of our international cooperation. Since starting the joint endeavour with the USPTO in January 2013, the CPC has been an overwhelming success that 19 other offices have now committed to. Building upon the International Patent Classification (IPC), the system harmonises the classification of patent documents and contributes to easy retrieval by patent offices, which will contribute to increased certainty and timeliness.

We also continue to work with new partners to bring benefits to users. This was evidenced last week when the EPO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Intellectual Property Office of Australia (IP Australia) on bilateral co-operation. Among the measures foreseen in the MoU will be pilot projects on Cooperative Patent Cooperation and Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH). These are just two key parts of the agreement which will help innovators in both regions by simplifying and accelerating access to patent protection.

The attractiveness of the European Patent also continues to grow, from its already strong and proven foundation. On Wednesday 9 October we announced a Validation Agreement between the EPO and Moldova. From November 1st, it will be possible for applicants to validate their patent applications in Moldova, assuring their inventions the same legal protection as national patents granted in the country. The initiative follows EPO support for training the Intellectual Property of the Republic of Moldova (AGEPI) and technical and legal assistance for the implementation of the agreement. Innovators can now obtain patent protection in up to 42 member States following a similar agreement with Morocco earlier this year.

Our efforts to bring more efficient processing of patents by cooperating with other patent offices throughout the world are ongoing and comprehensive. Through an extensive agenda of meetings last week, that included bilateral meetings with Israel, India, Tunisia, Thailand Cambodia – among many others – we have discussed both progress of ongoing projects and possible new areas of cooperation.

But the discussions are not limited to national offices. We put special emphasis on our relations with users associations to get a further understanding of how our international cooperation projects affect those who rely upon the system for high quality products. Last week I also had the pleasure of meeting the management of FICPI, headed by its President Mr Douglas Deeth. We signed an agreement on EPO support to the South East Asian Drafting (SEAD) courses, an initiative to train Asian, and eventually South American, patent attorneys. This three-year agreement is a key initiative to help promote the importance of quality from the earliest stages of the patent procedure, namely the drafting of the patent application.

I am encouraged by all of the discussions in and around WIPO and the significant agreements we finalised last week. I look forward to bringing you more news on how our international cooperation projects can help users of the patent system in the near future.

Benoît Battistelli

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