27 April 2011
Nearly ten years ago to the day, on 26 April 2001, the first World Intellectual Property Day was held. Its aim was “to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe”. And increasingly, it is true, a country’s international competitiveness seems to depend on its innovative capacity and the framework available to protect and enforce the results. Intellectual property has indeed become a very important asset for innovative industries all over the world.
As head of a patent office, I can certainly go along with that. But – as I read a few days ago, in an interesting blog from Joff Wild (IAM Magazine) questioning whether there is any automatic link between the number of patents and innovative capacity – IP should be regarded not as an end in itself but as a reward for true inventions which add real value. To serve its purpose, a patent system must be able to provide industry with efficient economic tools which have a solid legal basis.
Indeed, one real challenge for the patent system is to keep the right balance between the different and often opposing interests of users and third parties. My feeling is that this is central to the European conception of IP in general, and of the patent system in particular. Otherwise, there is a risk of the system turning into a mere producer of certificates with no real economic value.
Here, the EPO can contribute to global efforts by delivering high-quality patents based on a solid search report produced within a reasonable timeframe, and also by making reliable, comprehensive and well-structured patent information readily available. Only high-quality patents provide legal certainty to both the proprietor and his competitors, and preserve the rights of society in the “patent deal”. The EPO is committed to such a patent system – in Europe and worldwide.