30 January 2012
Last week, I had the pleasure of taking part in the first meeting of the EPO’s Economic and Scientific Advisory Board (ESAB). This new body is made up of eleven men and women, each from a different country (Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Turkey, UK and USA). They have diverse professional backgrounds but are all internationally recognised experts (academics, economists, IP practitioners in industry or private practice) and offer a wide variety of patent-related expertise.
The ESAB’s main task will be to investigate the societal and economic effects of the patent system. It will be completely independent in selecting its topics and deciding how its studies and workshops are organised. It intends participation in many of its workshops to be open to the public, and its findings will be published. The EPO will provide the secretariat and budget.
Why set up this new body? Basically, as a patent-granting authority the EPO has developed considerable technical and legal expertise. We are also well aware of the patent system’s potential impact and of the sensitivity of certain issues, and we have a real interest in understanding how patents can best serve the innovation process and the economy generally. But of course, the possible economic value of individual patent applications plays no part in our daily work. The economic impact of the patent system therefore needs to be assessed from a broader, external perspective. At the same time, looking ahead, the system must also become increasingly global. This is where our new advisory committee comes in.
After lively discussion, the ESAB selected three main topics for 2012: the role and structure of fees, the importance of patent quality, and the challenges to the system posed by “patent thickets” – overlapping sets of patent rights. So as you can see, it is keen to address the challenges and criticisms facing the system.
I hope we will soon be able to present the new board’s first studies, and that they will feed evidence-based debate leading to a better understanding of trends, issues and effects of the patent system.
Categories: Patents, The EPO
Tags: Blog EPO, economists, EPO, EPO president, ESAB, European Patent Office, innovation, intellectual property, IP, patent-system, science, Science Board, scientific, scientific advisory board