The EPO at 40 – a European and technical success

22 October 2013 - No comments »

EPO President Benoît BattistelliLast week, on 17 October, the EPO marked the 40th anniversary of the signing of the European Patent Convention, which took place in Munich on 5 October 1973. I had the pleasure of welcoming many guests from all over the world, in particular from Europe, the US and Asia. Among those attending the events organised for this festive occasion were Herman Van Rompuy (President of the European Council), ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, four former Presidents of the EPO (Paul Braendli, Ingo Kober, Alain Pompidou and Alison Brimelow), Francis Gurry (Director General of WIPO), António Campinos (President of OHIM), the heads of delegation on the EPO’s Administrative Council, and leading representatives of the user community.

Looking back over the past 40 years, it is evident that the EPC provided a sound basis for the political and technical success of the European patent system, with the EPO as its institutional core. In political terms, the EPO is a direct outcome of the European project which emerged after the Second World War, based on the assumption that the pursuit of common goals and interests in specific economic and industrial fields would lead to European integration and guarantee peace. The EPC, ratified by seven European countries in 1977, now embraces 38 contracting states. Looking at the technical aspect, the EPO has earned an outstanding reputation for the high quality of its products and services, developed to assist both the patent examination process and the dissemination of patent information. For a full account of the EPO’s origins and evolution, I urge you to consult the book, titled “The European Patent”, written by historian Professor Pascal Griset, from Paris-Sorbonne University, on the occasion of our anniversary.

These two dimensions – the political and the technical – were acknowledged in the various events on 17 October. The address by President Van Rompuy and the message relayed from EU Commissioner Barnier were exemplary illustrations of the close ties formed over the years between the EU and the EPO, culminating in the recently adopted unitary patent package. The role of innovation in driving the European economy was the theme of a panel discussion, moderated by CNN International’s Nina Dos Santos, with five high-profile guests: Estonian Justice Minister Hanno Pevkur; Lord Younger, UK Under-Secretary for Intellectual Property; SIPO Commissioner Tian Lipu; Ferdinando Becalli-Falco, CEO GE Europe; and TomTom CEO Harold Godijn. The main messages emerging from the debate were that the EPC has so far provided a reliable environment for inventors in Europe, and that the focus in the coming years should be on the sound implementation of the unitary patent package and the efforts to promote patent law harmonisation at the international level.

Next door, at the Deutsches Museum, the Hall of Fame exhibition was opened, honouring the creativity of a selection of recent participants in the European Inventor Award. The exhibition will travel to further venues around Europe, starting with Naples, as a gesture of solidarity towards the city, whose famous “Citta della Scienza” was destroyed by fire in March 2013. An event later in the day featured the work of the winners of the EPO Innovation Competition, launched this year for European universities. Using the patent information available in our databases, and with the support of the national patent offices in the European Patent Network, students were invited to define a research project of potential interest for future R&D. Almost 100 universities throughout Europe took part in the new competition, and it was encouraging to see the vitality and creativity of this European generation.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity of informing you that the address of our headquarters in Munich has changed, from Erhardtstrasse 27 to “Bob-van-Benthem Platz 1”, following the inaugural ceremony which I had the pleasure of conducting with the Mayor of the city of Munich, Christian Ude. The naming of the square in front of our building is a fitting tribute to the memory of the first President of the EPO, a true visionary who played such a crucial part in the foundation of our Organisation.

  • Share this post:

Older posts

Measuring IP’s economic benefits

Last week in Brussels, at a press conference with Commissioner Michel Barnier and OHIM President António Campinos, I had the pleasure of presenting an EPO/OHIM joint study on the economic impact of intellectual property rights (IPR) in the EU. The study has a pioneering significance. Although some research has already been done on specific IP […]

Dynamic trends in the global patent system

At this year’s WIPO Assemblies, which began last week in Geneva, I had the opportunity to meet many heads of IP offices. My immediate impression was of a widespread determination to modernise national frameworks and ensure that innovation policy and the patent system are at the top of national agendas. In most cases, these plans […]

Moving patent information up the agenda

This week in Munich I met the Board of the Patent Documentation Group, a long-established association of companies seeking to promote the effective use of patent information. We talked in depth about improvements, current projects and outstanding issues in this key area. Opportunities for such exchanges are limited, as most user groups tend to focus […]

Patentability: maintaining the balance

New IP challenges arise as new technologies emerge from R&D activities. This has been a pivotal issue for the patent system throughout its history, with the continual extension of its scope due to technical progress. In Europe, the mechanisms established 40 years ago with the signing of the European Patent Convention  have proved to be […]

First half of 2013 – a preliminary assessment

The end of the summer break is usually a good time to review the first half of the year and see if any trends are already apparent from the facts and figures available. So this could be a good opportunity to update you on our activities, even if some of the data is still provisional. […]

A new building in The Hague

As an organisation requiring top performance from its staff, the EPO is committed to provide a working environment that meets the highest international standards. A central aspect of this concerns the buildings in which staff carry out their daily tasks. The EPO’s building policy has to cater for five sites of very different size, in […]

Croatia’s EU accession – good news for Europe

Today, Croatia joined the European Union as its 28th full member. It has already been a member of the European Patent Organisation since 1 January 2008, playing a very active role in both institutional matters and our co-operation activities. Last year in Zagreb, the Croatian IP office and the EPO co-hosted an important European Patent […]

Boosting inter-activity with the users

Since my arrival at the EPO in 2010, I have put strong emphasis on making the Office more user-friendly. This is happening in several ways: for example, in providing new IT tools that help applicants to follow the processing of their patents. The feedback we have received so far has been very positive. We are […]

US feedback on recent developments in the European patent system

Last week, in the margins of the IP5 meeting, I had the opportunity to meet a number of senior IP executives from companies based in California. I always welcome this kind of direct contact with the EPO’s users, giving us a chance to inform them about our current projects and activities and to hear their […]