20 September 2013
This week in Munich I met the Board of the Patent Documentation Group, a long-established association of companies seeking to promote the effective use of patent information. We talked in depth about improvements, current projects and outstanding issues in this key area. Opportunities for such exchanges are limited, as most user groups tend to focus on the patent granting process. In my view, patent information objectives should also be at the top of the agenda.
As I have often said, the mission of a patent office comprises two equally important aspects: the examination of patent applications and the dissemination of patent information. I am convinced that the solution to one of the main issues facing the global patent system – the worldwide surge in patent applications – lies at least partly in better access to prior art. The quality of the “filtering” by patent offices depends on their ability to process the relevant patent information.
At the EPO, this emphasis has taken concrete shape in a whole range of services, including Espacenet, our database of more than 80 million documents; Patent Translate, our automated translation tool for patents; and the new federated European Patent Register, offering a single point of access to a vast body of European legal status data. The creation and maintenance of these services require substantial investment, in terms of human expertise and IT infrastructure. The EPO has always given the highest priority to initiatives in this field, looking not only to improve the quality of the data we provide, but also to enhance its accessibility. Nowadays, unrestricted public access to data, on a 24/7 basis, is a standard requirement.
In connection with patent information, I would also like to mention two forthcoming public events organised by the EPO. On 17 October, as part of the EPC fortieth anniversary celebrations, we shall be honouring the winners of the EPO Innovation Contest, involving universities from all over Europe. The successful participants have been chosen by an international jury on the basis of their technical analyses and innovative proposals in five categories (sustainable food production; eco-friendly energy production and storage; waste management, recycling and urban mining; smart transport and traffic management systems; and smart house technology). This will be followed, at the end of October, by our regular EPOPIC meeting, which brings together patent information specialists from across the world to discuss recent trends and future prospects. The 2013 edition of this highly popular event, with several hundred participants, will be taking place in Bologna.
You, the members of the patent community, are invited to join us at these events and I look forward to seeing you there.