05 July 2017
This week, I’m delighted to announce that the EPO has, for the first time ever, published its very first Annual Quality Report. Anyone interested in the EPO’s quality management now has access to comprehensive and detailed information on the measures that we are taking to maintain and further increase the quality of our products and services.
Available on our website, the quality report is in fact one of a number that are available to our users on a variety of topics. For many years, the public have had access to full reports on subjects such as social conditions for staff and the EPO’s environment governance. However, this quality report marks an evolutionary step by providing more in-depth information than has previously been published on our website relating to the EPO’s quality management strategy. Readers will now be able to observe how our quality is evolving yet further on an annual basis and how we are building upon the gains of previous years.
This is not an insignificant move. Over the years, the EPO has become synonymous with quality patents and the provision of robust intellectual property. With this report we are therefore introducing a high degree of transparency on an issue that cuts right to the heart of the EPO’s operations. The publication of such a report is also particularly timely because it explains how the EPO has been able to maintain and improve its quality at a time when the EPO has also been increasing its levels of production. Some regular readers of this blog will be aware that last year we reached nearly 400,000 search, examination and opposition products, meaning an overall increase in production of around 25% in the last two years. Furthermore, 40% more patents were granted in 2016 reaching a record level of 96,000.
The report therefore plays a key role in helping our users to understand that – with careful management – quality and increasing production are deeply compatible. Safeguards such as an ISO 9001 certified quality management system, demanding internal quality targets, regular audits and our own user feedback have ensured that this remains the case. But one of the most important factors that helps us to remain on track is feedback that comes from independent surveys. After all, while we are confident that the quality management measures we put in place are effective, we have a duty to assess whether this view is shared by the most important actors in this process; our users.
One of the most influential surveys in this respect is the annual IAM’s User Survey, thanks to its independent status and its increasingly comprehensive input from patent professionals from around the world (which this year numbered 800). Once again the EPO was voted as first among the IP5 offices for the quality of its patents and services. Between 92% and 94% of those surveyed rated the quality of patents issued as “excellent”, “very good” or “good”.
The results of the IAM survey, our own user feedback and the contents of the quality report show how we have fostered an ethic of quality within our Office. To help our users understand how we have remained committed to quality, I sincerely hope that our applicants will read and appreciate this annual quality report. But no matter how comprehensive the report, I also believe it is our patents and services that do the real talking; when it comes to quality at the EPO, there is simply no compromise.