EPO initiatives to improve the PCT

30 May 2014

EPO President Benoît BattistelliAs many of you are aware, the involvement of the EPO in the Patent Cooperation Treaty (the PCT) has always been a matter of first priority for us. Most of our filings are coming via this international plate-form counting 148 Member States and, as one of PCT authorities (ISA), the EPO produced last year almost 39% of all International Search Reports (ISR) and 50% of the International Preliminary Examinations Reports (IPER). This is why the EPO is keen on continuously improving, in close cooperation with WIPO and our partners among the patent offices, this unique international framework for patent works. The PCT experts of the Member States will gather in Geneva from 10 to 13 June and discuss a number of proposals.

Let me take this opportunity to highlight some of the recent initiatives the EPO has taken in this regard: we introduced a top-up search in the IPER phase since 1st April 2014; our fee for the international search report has been frozen till 1st April 2016; the PCT works supporting a PPH request among the IP5 Offices is currently subject to a pilot launched this year; we have introduced further flexibility in a case of non-unity in the European phase. We are currently in discussion with WIPO in order to better link our e-filing services and simplify the formalities for applicants.

Another recent internal project I would like to present more deeply is our so-called PCT Direct initiative: its goal is to offer applicants the possibility to link the search process conducted by the EPO on first filings (directly or on behalf of European national patent offices) with international phase for subsequent PCT applications. Based on its previous works, the EPO can realistically predict that the international phase will be concluded with a positive International Preliminary Report on Patentability without additional costs. Obviously, this will lead to a direct grant shortly after entering into the regional phase at the EPO. Furthermore, it is expected that a positive opinion on patentability drafted by the EPO, when acting as ISA, will be seen also by other designated offices as more than a good start for swiftly getting a patent granted, in particular in light of the IP5 PCT-PPH scheme already mentioned.

By consistently building on previous results at each stage of the procedures at the EPO, PCT Direct will provide a very cost effective service to applicants, which in the current economical context is a key element in a well thought through patenting strategy for innovative companies. The feedback collected so far when presenting the PCT Direct initiative to user circles has been very supportive and it is our intention to implement this option on 1st November this year.

Since the beginning of my mandate at the head of the European Patent Office, I have focused on improving the service that this office provides to its users. In particular how, in this time of increasing globalisation, can we better support applicants in getting patent protection abroad. The PCT route is increasingly used by applicants wishing to extend their patent coverage worldwide, and the EPO is firmly engaged to improve it.

Benoît Battistelli

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