06 June 2017 - No comments »
Last week the five largest IP offices in the world met in Malta for the annual meeting of the IP5. 2017 is a special year in the history of the forum, as it marks ten years of constructive cooperation between our patent offices since the founding of the IP5 in 2007.
In hindsight, the decision to create the IP5 to address the challenges of the patent system proved to be a remarkably timely decision. Just two years after our first meeting, patent applications at the IP5 offices had increased sharply, having risen from around 1.5 million in 2009 to 2.4 million in 2015. More recently, in 2016, there were 2.63 million patent applications at the IP5 offices and 1.12 million patents were granted. The IP5 was therefore a purposeful response to a global trend in patent applications that can be summed up accurately in just four words: high volume, high growth.
Given that applicants have sometimes also filed applications in more than one IP5 office, we were confident that the IP5 presented a real opportunity to help bring about greater harmonisation and a number of benefits for our users. For the applicants that would be improved services, more straightforward access to patent protection, more exhaustive patent information and greater access to patent data. At the same time, our offices also stood to avoid the unnecessary duplication of work and to gain a solid framework for our cooperation.
This year, a decade on from the first inaugural meeting in the US, it was the EPO that had the pleasure of hosting the annual meeting in Valletta and there were two important aspects of the meeting that I think are worth highlighting. The first of these concerns the progress that we have made to date. As well as evaluating the initiatives currently underway, this week was also an opportunity to take stock of our overall strategic progress since the IP5’s inception. We were therefore delighted to be able to adopt a statement that gives our users a clear and concise overview of the major achievements delivered by the IP5. They have included tools such as the Global Dossier, which now offers applicants access to information through a single portal, and the Common Citation Document for obtaining information on a patent family treated by the IP5 offices.
Secondly, such progress is only possible if we continue to adapt to the modern IP environment, which is constantly tested by changing user needs and the fast deployment of even faster developing technology. This ten year anniversary was therefore also a time to acknowledge that the IP5 and patent granting needs to evolve as fast as the practices of the industry and businesses who rely on us for quality patents. We therefore took the opportunity to address topics of strategic importance where we can continue to make progress in the future. These included subjects such as IP5 project management, the importance of thoroughness of searches, Industry 4.0, XML filings and work-sharing.
One of the other ways we ensure that we continually adapt to user needs is by ensuring that we’re getting more feedback from our users. It was therefore a pleasure to once again welcome heads of Industry at the IP5 and to hold a special meeting between industry representatives and the heads of Offices, a practice which first started when we hosted the IP5 in France in 2012. With their presence we’re able to make sure that our goals and the goals of our users are more closely aligned. It is a process that has also been supported with the instigation of another adaptation to the IP5 process – the creation of the IP5 Industry Consultation Group, which was first held in Munich in January this year.
I’m therefore also delighted that our IP5 offices were able to develop and agree on a new joint statement which acknowledges the evolving needs of our users and places emphasis on state-of-the-art services. I am confident that this clear vision, supported by four clear areas of focus (harmonised patent practices, optimising quality, work sharing and patent information), will provide a renewed foundation for IP5 cooperation and our joint endeavours to support users.