12 January 2012
First of all, let me wish you all a Happy New Year!
This is traditionally the time to review the achievements of the old year, and to look ahead – with good resolutions! – to the challenges of the new one.
As I said in my last blogpost, 2011 was a busy and positive year for the EPO. In particular, we experienced strong growth in our business, and laid down our strategy in key areas such as HR, quality, IT, co operation and buildings. In 2012 we will focus on implementing it, to further improve the efficiency and quality of our work. The IT roadmap has already started to deliver, and I hope the resulting improvements will soon be felt by in-house and external users alike.
Europeans could be forgiven for approaching the year ahead with some trepidation, especially in view of our current economic situation as depicted in the media. And it is true that Europe, like other parts of the world, is facing a financial crisis which is having real economic consequences, particularly for jobs. Some EPO member states are experiencing difficulties which unfortunately often also affect their national patent offices, including their capacity to invest in innovative projects.
One easy reaction is to blame Europe and its institutions, but whilst aware of the problems we face I strongly disagree with that view. On the contrary, I am convinced that most of our difficulties are caused not by “too much Europe” but by too little.
First, I believe Europe still has the resources – including strong industries, long traditions of innovation and creative R&D work, well-developed educational systems, and cultural diversity – to play a major role on the world stage.
Second, as head of a European public-service organisation, I am convinced that our main problems can be solved through better pooling and co ordination of Europe’s resources and skills. This is particularly true in patents, where the EPO is widely regarded as a success by our users in Europe and worldwide. That is because our system combines both regional and national levels to offer a comprehensive range of services tailored to diverse needs. The EPO, as a centralised body, deploys substantial human and technical resources to ensure that large filing volumes from users active not only on our own regional market but also worldwide are dealt with efficiently and to high quality standards. Meanwhile, our national partners are best placed to address local requirements and needs. This effective combination of resources is the right answer and has helped to give Europe a leading global role.
Of course, some improvements are still needed, such as cheaper and simpler patent protection and a better litigation system. But I have no doubt that the new Danish EU presidency will make every effort to complete the unitary patent and unified patent court projects which were almost agreed under its Polish predecessor.
So I hope these expectations will at last be fulfilled in 2012, to the benefit of Europe’s economy and the global patent system. You may rest assured that the EPO will do everything in its power to help make that happen.