02 June 2016
In every annual survey published by Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) magazine since 2010, the EPO has ranked first among the world’s IP5 offices for the quality of both its patents and services. I am delighted to report that this year’s survey, announced recently, has reconfirmed our position as a global leader in quality and marks the fifth consecutive survey in which this has been achieved.
In a survey of 600 participants, three groups of IP professionals – IP managers, executives working for non-practicing entities (NPEs) and private practice lawyers and attorneys – were asked a series of questions about the EPO and the other IP5 offices.
Of those that provided a response, 87% of NPEs, 94% of private practitioners and 96% of corporate respondents said that the quality of patents issues by the EPO was “excellent”, “very good” or “good”. In addition, all three categories of respondents placed the EPO’s quality of services in the top spot.
To achieve this recognition by our users for yet another year has been no mean feat. The IP environment in which we operate is ever more competitive, and IP offices the world over are making changes to offer better services and products. Moreover, rising numbers of both filings and applications have demanded reforms to bring about greater efficiency and increasing levels of production.
Our strategy to respond to these demands has always been clear. Production and efficiency must increase but never at the cost of quality. The results of this survey are therefore all the more noteworthy: Quality remains as high as ever, while last year the EPO achieved a 14% rise in production and granted a record 68,000 patents. Similarly, other important projects, such as our Early Certainty from Search initiative, have also helped to improve timeliness and reduce our backlogs and now put us in a position to explore how we can expand this to examination and opposition.
Above all, measures have been put in place to assure that Quality is never taken for granted and it remains an ongoing exercise in which we continually strive for improvement. When we achieved ISO9001 certification, we set about achieving this certification for the entire patent granting process. When we met our internal quality targets last year, we set even higher targets for this year. Our Quality Management System undergoes regular audits and annual Quality action plans are refined and implemented by our different DGs, to name but a few of the ongoing actions. The effect of these measures to continually raise quality has been noted by our users: According to IAM, 15% of corporates and 19% of private practices who responded said that quality at the EPO has improved yet further over the course of the last year.
The outcome of the survey is a result of which our staff can be proud and I take this opportunity to thank them publicly for their professionalism and hard work. Readers can also rest assured that for the EPO, these results are not an invitation to rest on our laurels but to deliver further increases in quality and more legally robust patents upon which our users have come to rely.