Our users on board

20 September 2011

Last week, in Munich and Berlin, I had the opportunity to meet three major different user associations: the executive committee of FICPI (the international federation of IP attorneys), the GRUR (the oldest and largest grouping of German IP experts) and the BDI (the umbrella organisation for German industry).

It is always a real pleasure for me to have such opportunities for direct exchanges of news and views with practitioners, and especially to get their feedback on the policy we are defining or implementing. We received more than 235 000 patent applications last year, so even the biggest applicant accounts for only a very small individual share, and there could be a risk of the Office losing contact or appearing too remote. But we are an international public service, and I am firmly convinced that our availability to the public is a key part of our duty and a major factor in any assessment of the quality of our services generally.

Of course, meeting someone does not automatically mean sharing their views. We must all respect each other’s role and position, and there must be some clarity about the context in which the exchange takes place. The Office’s objectives must also include a dynamic balance between applicants’ and third parties’ interests, as well as reflecting the general interests of society at large. Nowadays, any modern, high-quality public administration seeks to improve its accessibility – even if that poses particular challenges for an international organisation with 38 member states and 60% of applicants from non-member countries!

That is why I will do my best to continue to meet our users’ representatives on a regular basis, and why all EPO staff, especially our examiners, are encouraged to have direct contact with the public whenever appropriate and likely to help solve the issue at hand. I also think there are one or two practical measures which could help to facilitate dialogue and information exchange. For example, much of the EPO’s Administrative Council documentation will soon be made publicly available. We are also in the process of implementing a special web-based consultation mechanism on different topics of interest to our users, such as legal framework, fees and examination practice. Others will follow for sure.

Benoît Battistelli

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