Improving PCT Timeliness

02 August 2017

At the EPO, we support our applicants in pursuing a global patent strategy with a single application by acting as an International Search Authority (ISA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The EPO is in fact the world’s largest ISA and we pride ourselves on our worldwide reputation for providing the highest quality International Search Reports (ISR). This week I report on how the EPO has now reached its quickest ever processing times for PCT searches to ensure that 97% of all EPO ISRs are now delivered within the allotted time.

We are committed to meeting the requirements of our applicants: a highly reliable product delivered in a timely manner so that strategic decisions can be taken. Applicants receiving an ISR issued by the EPO know the prior art which is likely to be used during the subsequent examination procedures,  resulting in cost and efficiency benefits for applicants: with an ISR from the EPO, there is no need for a supplementary search on entry to the European regional phase.  Applicants can therefore save €1300.00 compared to those who file their PCT applications at other ISAs. In addition, the Written Opinion accompanying the ISR provides applicants with a first indication that supports decisions on whether to continue with the application in national or regional proceedings, to amend the claims to overcome likely objections or to abandon the application altogether.

For the EPO, the ISR is a core element of our work whose production we do not outsource. It receives the highest attention on substance, content and prioritization and is produced by highly skilled and specialized examiners who act as Authorized Officers. The EPO’s “get it right first time” approach means that our examiners always perform thorough and complete searches using the latest search tools to retrieve documents from the world’s largest databases.

Thanks to our prioritisation efforts with the “Early Certainty from Search” initiative, the EPO is now among the fastest International Authorities in the world. In 2010, 76% of the EPO’s International Search Reports were delivered quickly enough to be published together with the international publication, (the “A1 Publication”) 18 months after filing. That figure rose to 85% in 2014 and in the first half of 2017, 97% of all EPO ISRs were delivered on time. 

Improvements have also been made in the timeliness of our PCT preliminary examination services. In 2014, 76% of EPO International Preliminary Reports on Patentability were delivered within 28 months from the priority date. So far, in 2017, this objective has been achieved in 92% of the cases.

The EPO therefore offers legal certainty through the timely delivery of PCT search and examination products which have internationally recognised levels of quality. The EPO’s whole patent process including all PCT work is overseen by a comprehensive ISO 9001-certified Quality Management System. We are committed to listening to our users and continual improvement in procedural efficiency, enhanced timeliness and the highest possible legal certainty for our applicants and the public. In doing so, we serve applicants’ decision-making needs and offer a cost-effective and reliable springboard for efficient patent protection both within Europe and worldwide.

Benoît Battistelli




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