Celebrating thirty years of EPO-SIPO bilateral relations

23 October 2015 - No comments »

EPO President Benoît Battistelli

This is a special year for the EPO and SIPO. 2015 marks the thirtieth anniversary of bilateral cooperation between our offices. The productive relationship that now exists between the patent-granting authorities of Europe and China is the result of the long term vision that was initiated by our offices’ predecessors over three decades ago. On 11 June 1985, the first memorandum of understanding was signed by Wu Heng and the EPO’s first President, Bob van Benthem. It set in motion a bilateral cooperation process which proved to be broad in its scope and productive in its achievements. Capacity building measures were put in place through extensive training programmes and the provision of expertise on the granting of patents, including patent law and IT systems. It is estimated that since our cooperation first began, over 1000 SIPO staff have received training from the EPO. On top of such capacity-building exercises, there were also significant breakthroughs in the provision of automated patent tools, such as the transfer of the EPOQUE to SIPO in 1998.

As a consequence of these kinds of initiatives and the work we have undertaken together, China has been able to develop a world-class patent granting process in line with the best international standards. This has provided significant benefits. For the European economy, our innovators are more easily able to access a patent system that provides access to a market of 1.3 billion consumers. Our economies have been boosted by innovations patented in Europe and China which have contributed to global growth. Furthermore, the adoption by China of a truly international patent system has enhanced the efficiency and quality of the global patent system as a whole, through increased harmonisation of standards such as those relating to patent information.

This increased harmonisation has been supported by an approach which places a strong emphasis on technical cooperation between our offices. Over the years we have implemented direct and secure data exchange and, in 2012, implemented the Chinese-English component of the EPO’s free machine translation service, Patent Translate. This ground-breaking translation tool has meant that Chinese patent documentation has been part of the minimum PCT documentation and enhanced the legal certainty of patents. It has seen a welcome increase in the robustness of patents that has also been further supported by an agreement on Cooperative Patent Classification, which was signed in June 2013.

In addition to the technical cooperation that has proved so productive over the years, the work that we have done together has enabled our relationship to take on a more strategic dimension. It was formally recognised with the signing of a Strategic Partnership Agreement in June 2007. We now benefit from a more coordinated approach at a strategic level. Working together closely in forums such as the IP5, our offices are able to adopt a coordinated approach on global issues affecting the international patent system.

This strategic and technical cooperation was the subject of discussion in Lyon, where there was widespread recognition of the benefits that our cooperation with SIPO had brought to users of the international patent system. A symposium, organised in conjunction with stakeholders such as epi, BUSINESSEUROPE, EUROPATIS, the Gaolulin Foundation and the European Chamber of Commerce in China, produced excellent discussion from the numerous and knowledgeable attendees. We look forward to the partner event in China this November where we will continue to celebrate 30 years of outstanding bilateral cooperation between the EPO and SIPO.

Benoît Battistelli

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