Argentina, CPC and the prospect of reinforced cooperation

12 February 2018 - No comments »

Last week I was in Argentina to visit the National Institute of Intellectual Property (Instituto Nacional de la Propiedad Intelectual- INPI) and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will see Argentina start to use the Cooperative Patent Classification system (CPC) as from 2019. I’m also pleased to report that discussions in Argentina have raised the possibility of a deeper, closer cooperation in the future.

Our cooperation with Argentina was formally launched in May 2017, when we first signed a Bilateral Cooperation Agreement. With this comprehensive agreement in place, the EPO is supporting INPI in the modernisation of its patent system. Since INPI President Pardo led that delegation to our headquarters in Munich, our two offices have worked to achieve a number of goals. Those aims include improving the respective patent systems, enhancing the quality and efficiency of patent search and examination procedures and improving access to patent information and its dissemination.

Right from the very start, there was a clear acknowledgement that the CPC would play an important role in that process. The signature of the CPC Memorandum of Understanding will now support a more robust Argentinian patent system, built upon unparalleled degrees of granularity in classification. That has implications for all of us who use patent information. For the global IP community, refined classification is essential for providing efficient access to high quality patent literature. In the long run, that high quality information will in turn generate higher quality patents as more countries, such as Argentina, join the CPC and provide other offices with finely classified prior art. In short, Argentina’s participation means the quality of our patent system will be reinforced by the participation of another country that has chosen to use the world’s most accurate and detailed patent classification system. Argentina’s decision to join the CPC testifies to the growing popularity of the system, which has already attracted other Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico.

But there is also a more strategic goal. By helping to modernise the patent system in Argentina and increasing quality in the patent system, our cooperation has the potential to boost innovation and attract more innovators from outside Argentina. Users, for example, can expect more harmonised technical information that provides a more familiar patent system for those entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses venturing across the Atlantic. That is particularly important given the trade – both realised and potential – between Europe and Argentina. Already the Argentinian market has proved attractive to foreign businesses. 86% of Argentinian patent applications came from non-residents in 2015. Similarly, the territories of the EPO members and validation states offer Argentinian inventors a market of over 700 million consumers.  This ability of patents to create new investment prospects was a point that was also acknowledged when meeting Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun.

Cooperation on patents therefore creates great opportunity. But it also infers a question: should we be doing more? Given the potential gains for innovation, are there ways in which we could enhance our cooperation to increase harmonisation and benefit from examination work that has already been carried out?

The EPO already has a number of tools that help facilitate work sharing and harmonisation; the Global Dossier, the CPC, validation agreements and bilateral work plans, to name just a few.  But after the extremely constructive discussions with President Pardo of INPI and others in Buenos Aires this week, we’ll be assessing new possibilities for an advanced form of cooperation on the reuse of work results in patent examination – a form of deeper cooperation that any number of countries could take advantage of, and one which could effectively accommodate any national considerations.

Can such a ‘reinforced cooperation’ be delivered?  It’s too early to say with any certainty, but we’ll definitely be investigating opportunities to do so. Given the way the EPO’s international cooperation has developed in the past, I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.

Benoît Battistelli

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