Refining the EPO’s Patent Information Strategy

11 November 2016

President Benoit BattistelliThis week in Madrid, the EPO held a conference to discuss the latest developments in a field that is widely acknowledged for making one of the most valuable contributions to intellectual property systems the world over; patent information. Over the years, the EPO’s Patent Information Conference has grown into the largest of its kind in Europe and this year –the 26th edition – brought together around 400 participants from over 45 countries. I was therefore pleased to be able to use this opportunity to talk about the advances that the EPO is making in this field, both in terms of our strategy for delivering better patent information and the changes being implemented.

Our commitment to patent information and the conference itself arises from the fundamental recognition that the data presents great opportunities to our users. It is a uniquely valuable resource that can help both businesses and policy makers to better understand the markets and IP systems in order to make sound business and policy decisions. For innovators and scientists themselves, patent information is perceived to be the most up to date and comprehensive volume of technical information in the world. Given the potential of this data, and to help deliver services that are aligned with the expectations of our users, the EPO earlier this year refined its patent information strategy.

The approach is based on four key characteristics, all of which are instrumental in the gathering and provision of patent information. Firstly, the Office is committed to being a leading provider based on data that is complete, useable, timely and correct. Secondly, we develop our services in such a way that recognises other organisations and private sector actors have a vital role to play in the dissemination of patent information. Together with José María Jover, Under-Secretary of Industry, Energy and Tourism and President of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, I met various enterprises offering patent information services during the conference. It was evident from the feedback that the relationship between a public organisation such as the EPO and commercial partners is going from strength to strength in the field of patent information and is responding well to the needs of our users and of the market.

Thirdly, with such rapidly growing volumes of patent information, it is vital to ensure we’re making the right tools available to help utilise the vast amount of data available to our users. Everything from statistical analysis to translations of patent documents is possible with the EPO’s freely available tools such as Patstat and Patent Translate. And, fourthly, supporting the continual gathering of valuable patent information, are our cooperation efforts which allow us to enter into agreements with other offices to obtain patent information.

These four pillars have guided the office in expanding and improving both our patent information services and our resources so they have the potential to be of greater and greater value to our users and offer. Additional international agreements have been signed, paving the way for more data to be received from other parts of the world. For example the EPO extended its Global Dossier on 1 November so that data can be gathered from other countries beyond the IP5, whereas in the past it had only been possible from the world’s largest patent offices. The latest of the international agreements is, fittingly, a new bilateral cooperation plan signed with Ms Patricia García-Escudero, Director General of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office, which will also include projects in the field of patent information and awareness between the EPO and SPTO.

Our databases have grown to the point where we now stand on the edge of having 100 million documents in our bibliographic collection, as well as over 200 million legal status events from 64 patent issuing authorities. In addition, patent information tools are being constantly improved and expanded. In the last year, the EPO’s Global Patent Index was upgraded. So too was Espacenet enhanced to include full text searching and has seen a recent 12% increase in use. Users are also able to benefit from a new pilot project that has been created to provide our users with transparency on examiner search strategies.

At the EPO, we have always believed that in exchange for patent fees and as part of our mission to support innovators in Europe, users should always have the very latest and most comprehensive patent information available. I am therefore pleased that the more patent information and tools the EPO provides, the more our users are seemingly exploiting it to their own advantage and to the benefit of the innovation sector.

Benoît Battistelli

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