05 May 2017 - No comments »
This week I was pleased to speak at our annual PATLIB conference, where participants from Europe’s PATLIB centres gathered in their role as providers of patent information. With nearly two hundred professionals present from across the EPO member states, the event has established itself as a focal point in the PATLIB agenda since the first such event was held as far back as 1990.
Now, more than ever, there is a need to support inventors by providing them with clear and understandable IP guidance. In a recent survey that was carried out on behalf of the EPO, it was found that 70% of inventors used patent information and that 75% of those were using EPO patent information. The role of patent information in the innovation process is therefore clear, as is the role of the EPO’s patent information tools.
One of our primary aims is therefore to ensure that European inventors are able to exploit this patent information and the tools we offer. The PATLIB network plays a vital role in this process; while the EPO has a wealth of information and statistics available, Europe needs a network of trained professionals to help disseminate that information and help others understand how it can be used to their advantage. PATLIB offices are helping to answer that call by offering essential services to patent applicants and users, from simple advice on the patent procedure to patent portfolio evaluation in some cases.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t challenges in this field. Increasing amounts of information to search, the need to increase PATLIB visibility, and constant adaption to changing needs of users can all place demands upon the PATLIBs. Recognising those issues, the EPO has implemented a series of measures to support the PATLIB network in its vital work. Support is given within a financial framework, active promotion by our Office helps to create visibility for the PATLIB network and the PATLIB centres profit from no or reduced fees for EPO patent information tools. Among these is access to the Global Patent Index (GPI) and PATSTAT, where expert help can really help users to make the most of this powerful statistical tool.
Among the EPO’s priorities in this area is the need to provide PATLIB centres with training. By doing so, we stand to expand the services offered in all three hundred or so centres in our member states, not just within a select few. The conference itself was one of these training opportunities. While last year’s event focused on networking and sharing experiences, this year’s programme centred around a learning programme. In consultation with the PATLIB steering committee, we were pleased to be able to offer a full two-day agenda of presentations and breakout groups on a wide variety of subjects, such as searching cross-technology inventions and client communications.
And at the close of the conference, when the microphones are switched off and the participants have left the EPO, our co-operation – and the training in particular – goes on. Specific online courses and other classroom sessions are helping to broaden knowledge in this field and the EPO is assessing how this can be improved yet further, with initiatives to enhance the geographic spread of services offered in PATLIB centres.
With the combined efforts of the PATLIB network and the EPO, and in close liaison with the National Patent Offices, we are making good progress in achieving our goals – a true network across Europe that gives citizens access to expert IP advice within a reasonable distance and in their own language. By doing so, I am confident that we are leveraging the potential of patent information more and more by putting it in the hands of those who can truly benefit from it: Europe’s inventors.