2011 – a good year for the EPO

23 December 2011

As the year draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to review our main achievements. The EPO did well in 2011, despite Europe’s economic difficulties. We now reckon with almost 250 000 filings, beating last year’s record of 235 000 – which however was due partly to a one-off surge in divisional applications. We will see next year whether the economic crisis ultimately affects filing trends. However, with 60% of our applicants located outside Europe, the EPO is less vulnerable to economic downturns in any one specific region.

2011 has been a very busy year. In March, the Administrative Council adopted the EPO’s proposed strategic orientations, based on efficiency gains, cost control, and improvements in the quality of our products and services. As a result, we now have clear roadmaps for the next 4-5 years in five key areas: human resources, quality, IT, buildings and co-operation. The Council’s broad support and positive comments are also a strong signal of the confidence built up in recent months. When the roadmap programmes are implemented in practice, I expect to see further improvements in our performance and working conditions.

The EPO has delivered around 310 000 products – mainly search reports (plus written opinions on patentability) and completed examinations. But this increased production has not affected the timeliness of our final decisions. In two separate independent polls, users have continued to praise the quality of our products and services. That is very gratifying, and encourages us to continue to interpret the patentability criteria rigorously. Implementation of the quality roadmap will no doubt reinforce this approach. At international level, we have developed some valuable strategic partnerships, such as our machine-translation agreement with Google, fruitful co-operation with our IP5 and trilateral partners, and promising bilateral programmes (e.g. with China, Brazil and Russia).

Obviously, that does not mean 2011 was perfect and we can rest on our laurels in 2012. On the contrary: many challenges lie ahead, and implementing the roadmaps will be a decisive and sensitive phase. However, the EPO’s foundations are sound and, with the staff’s commitment and the Council’s support, I feel I can face the future with confidence. Other ongoing issues, such as the unitary patent and the unified patent court, may also come to fruition and affect our daily work. All in all, 2012 already looks like a very interesting year.

So I hope you will continue to read my blogposts with interest in 2012. In the meantime, I wish you and your families a merry Christmas and a happy new year. See you again in 2012!

BenoƮt Battistelli

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