Last year, filings at the EPO reached a new peak, with over 265 000 applications. Coping with this workload – while maintaining high quality standards – necessitates action to address a wide range of parameters, including human resources, IT tools, the legal framework of the patent process and the EPO’s internal procedures. With the “Raising the bar” initiative and the implementation of other recent projects (the CPC, Patent Translate and the new EPOQUEnet), the EPO has achieved major progress in mastering the world’s prior art, especially the increasing volumes of Asian prior art, and has improved the efficiency of search and examination.
The Office is currently seeking to address more specifically an issue often raised in public debate: the timeliness of the process. Only a small proportion of our applicants (about 6% of the total) request the fast-track procedure known as PACE to shorten the time to grant. However, there is clearly a good deal of interest in the quick delivery of the EPO’s comprehensive search report, which includes an opinion on patentability. This is why we have decided to launch a new initiative called “Early Certainty from Search”.
The Office is already able to provide search reports within 6 months for its first filings (20% of the total), but the objective now is to apply this tight timeline to all the second filings as well. By focusing more examiner time on searches, “Early Certainty from Search” would improve legal certainty for pending patent applications in Europe, as well as removing the blind spots caused by the growing backlog of unsearched applications, mostly from outside Europe. It should also be possible for third parties to request accelerated examination, provided this does not place an undue burden on applicants. The new scheme would apply to all our files, with no additional fee.
During the coming months we shall be consulting our users about this major, and unique, step forward. On the basis of their feedback, a final decision will be taken on whether to switch the examiner priority scheme to the “Early Certainty from Search” concept in July 2014. The consultation exercise has already begun, and the comments received so far show a strong interest in the proposals. I would urge you all to share your thoughts with us on this strategic reorientation.
My official visit to Mexico last week was a valuable opportunity to meet the national authorities and patent system users, and also to assess the scope for reinforcing the long-standing cooperation between the EPO and the Mexican IP office (IMPI). The timing was particularly appropriate, as Mexico is currently working to implement an ambitious national […]
Over the past decade, the valuation and monetisation of intellectual property have become ever more important. In the past, the approach to these matters was mainly defensive, when liquidity problems led companies to look for things they could readily sell, including immaterial assets. Latterly, however, the management of patent portfolios has become increasingly dynamic, with […]
The EPO filing figures for 2013 were published last week. Although they remain preliminary – largely because of the 2013 PCT applications which have yet to reach us -, the main trends are clearly apparent. First, for the fourth year in a row, the filings total increased (+2.8%), reaching yet another peak (265 000). However, […]
Less than a year after the entry into force of the EU Regulations on unitary patent protection and the signing of the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (UPC), it is gratifying to see the steady progress in the preparation and implementation of these two major projects for the benefit of inventors and industry in […]
The cooperation between the EPO and the patent office of China (SIPO) dates back almost 30 years, to the signing of the first cooperation agreement in 1985. The bilateral Heads meeting held last week in Beijing was a further example of the longstanding and excellent relations between our two Offices. Reviewing our recent cooperation activities, […]
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 […]
Last week, in Brussels, the EPO and OHIM held a joint seminar on the essentials of IP for EU officials. I was delighted to see that this event attracted some 130 participants, from the EU institutions, national governments and IP offices, indicating the strong awareness within the European policy-making community of the crucial role of […]
On 25 and 26 October the European Patent Academy‘s European Judges Forum was held at Venice International University on the island of San Servolo. This forum, launched in 2005 and organised in co-operation with the Intellectual Property Judges Association (IPJA) and the European Patent Lawyers Association (EPLAW), brings together a large number of judges and […]
Last week, I attended the EPO Patent Information Conference, hosted this year by the city of Bologna, which, as an industrial, academic and cultural centre that has nurtured so many innovative minds, was the perfect location for a headline conference dealing with the dissemination of technical knowledge. This year’s event drew some 400 patent information […]