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    EPO Sees More Applications, More Modernisation, Battistelli Says

    Published on 6 March 2014 @ 7:36 pm

    By for Intellectual Property Watch

    BRUSSELS – Patent quality is top priority for the European Patent Office, which “wants to be the best in the world,” President Benoît Battistelli said in a 5 March interview. The office’s latest annual report shows that patent filings are at an all-time high, and that Europe is an innovation hub. The office’s push for excellence, however, has sparked some staff resistance, Battistelli said.

    The number of patent filings at the EPO rose by 2.8 percent in 2013, Battistelli said at a 6 March press briefing in Brussels. Last year, the office received 265,000 applications, compared to 258,000 in 2012. It granted 66,700 European patents, 1.6 percent more than in 2012, and the highest ever number, he said. Filings from Asia accounted for almost three-quarters of the increase, he said. The annual report is here.

    The 38 EPO member countries accounted for 35 percent of all patent applications last year, with the rest coming from outside Europe, the EPO said. The most active countries were the US (24 of the total percentage), Japan (20 percent), Germany (12 percent), China (8 percent), Korea (6 percent), France (5 percent), Switzerland and the Netherlands (both 3 percent), and the UK and Sweden (both 2 percent).

    Switzerland headed the list of European applications per million inhabitants, followed by Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, the EPO said. By contract, Japan had 177 applications per million inhabitants, well ahead of South Korea and the EU 28-country average (both 129), the US (107) and China (3).

    Although European patent filings are outnumbered by those from other regions, the fact that there are more and more applications from non-European countries shows the attractiveness of the European economy as a hub for innovation, Battistelli said in the interview.

    Focus on Patent Quality, Organisational Efficiency

    Patent quality is the EPO’s first priority, Battistelli told Intellectual Property Watch. Quality means that a patent is “legally solid,” he said at the press briefing. Among other things, the office is developing tools to give its examiners better access to Asian patent documentation (text and data).

    It is also setting individual quality targets for examiners, and has, with the US Patent and Trademark Office, put in place a patent classification scheme to improve the quality of search that has become the world standard, he said. There are three examiners in each examining position, a set-up that avoids personal bias and ensures more objective decisions on patent grants, he said.

    The results of such changes is that since 2010, the EPO has ranked first each year in independent user surveys, Battistelli said.

    Another priority is to put in place a quality efficiency strategy, Battistelli told Intellectual Property Watch. He wants the office to be more efficient and cost-effective, increasing production while cutting expenses. The EPO has hired 200 new examiners, 90 of whom are filling new posts, with the rest taking slots vacated by examiners who are leaving, he said. Of the office’s 7,000 employees, 4,100 are examiners, he said. The EPO will not be raising its fees, but will try to boost productivity by redeploying staff from support services to core activities, he said.

    Change Sparks Staff Unrest

    But efforts at modernising the office are spurring some “resistance, dissatisfaction” among the staff, Battistelli said. The world is changing and the EPO must adapt, he said. Change always creates difficulties but is necessary to build the future of the office, he said.

    The office is updating its social policy in several areas, including a legal framework for strikes, rules for working from home, and making sure those who speak for employees in EPO staff interactions are truly representative, Battistelli said. Globally, the staff’s social package is very generous, he said. Last year’s “social report,” which details salaries, allowances and promotions, shows that staff is in a good position, he said.

    The EPO is the only international organisation that is fully self-funding but that also gives back money to its member states, Battistelli said. Part of every patent renewal fee generated by European patents stays in the country from which the patent arose, he said. The office gives back 400 million euros from its total 2 billion euro budget, he said.

    International Outreach

    The EPO wants to be the best in the world at granting patents, Battistelli said. It will contribute to global innovation by issuing quality patents, he said. The office is working with counterparts in other regions to harmonise patent rules in order to cut red tape and unnecessary formalities for companies, he said. That can be tackled on two levels, he said. Technical harmonisation is mainly being led by patent offices. IP5, an informal alliance of the European, US, Japanese, Chinese, Chinese and Korean patent offices, is standardising patent tools, practices and procedures, he said. Harmonisation on the substantive level, however, is more difficult because it requires national legislation, he said.

    The EPO is active in all international discussions, Battistelli said. For example, the office announced on 4 March an agreement with the UK Intellectual Property Office that creates new working arrangements to enable better cooperation between the two and that will give British businesses better access to patent information in Europe

    The EPO is also technically ready to start granting and administering the EU single patent, Battistelli said. Most implementation and procedural rules have been settled, but patent grants can’t move forward until the unified patent court system is in place, which likely will not be until the end of 2015 or early 2016, he said. Battistelli said he doesn’t foresee any problems with securing the requisite number of 13 national ratifications of the unified patent court. Three countries have already done do and the process is moving forward in several others as well, he said.

    Other statistics from the annual report were: (1) The top three filing countries in 2013 were the US, Japan and Germany. (2) Samsung again submitted the most applications (2,618), but five of the top ten filing companies were European (Siemens, Philips, Bosch, BASF and Ericsson). (3) Europeans filed the largest number of applications in nine of the 10 major technical fields, and grabbed the lead from US applicants in the area of medical technology, which was once again the field with the most applications. (4) Computer technology was the only field not dominated by Europe last year; here, the US led with 34 percent of the filings.

    Dugie Standeford may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Anynomous says:

      In 2013, the EPO “granted 66,700 European patents, 1.6 percent more than in 2012″. Nothing is said about the actual number of examiners in 2012 and 2013. Applicants may wonder which toll they will pay for this increase. They must be aware that, despite all their efforts examiners may had to reconsider this subtle equilibrium between quality and quantity. Article 99 EPC is not yet outdated.


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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