European Patents Rising; EPO President Denies Retirement Package 03/03/2016 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)BRUSSELS — Patents applications are on the rise in Europe the European Patent Office President Benoît Battistelli said today, with half of the applications coming from European inventors. The United States led followed by Germany, and Japan, and China showing a strong growth. The EPO president also announced the signature of an agreement with one trade union against a background of social unrest in the organisation. During a press briefing today in Brussels, European Patent Office President Battistelli presented the office’s 2015 results and pictured it as the world’s most proficient. In 2015, European patent applications increased by 4.6 percent (160,022) compared to 2014 (152,703). Patent applications have been regularly increasing since the last 15/20 years, he said. Some 47 percent of all patent applications come from EPO member states and 53 percent from other countries, with the US representing the biggest share (27 percent) of non-EPO patent applicants, followed by Japan (13 percent), South Korea (4 percent) in a tie with China (4 percent). Battistelli underlined the fact that the patent balance is positive for Europe. “We export more patents than we import patents in Europe,” he said, which shows that the European economy is high in innovative capacities, he added. US, Germany, Japan Top of the List The top ten countries for European patent applications in 2015 were: the United States (26.7 percent), Germany (15.5), Japan (13.4), France (6.7), Netherlands (4.4), Switzerland (4.4), South Korea (4), China (3.6), United Kingdom (3.1), and Italy (2.5). The countries which showed the most growth in 2015 were China (+22.2 percent) and the US (+16.4), while Japan, Germany, and Canada showed declining numbers of applications. The “exceptional” growth figure of the US is due to two elements, according to Battistelli. One is the strength of US companies in high tech, and the second is the impact of the change in US patent laws in the last two to three years. On Germany, Battistelli said one of the elements that could explain the decline in patent applications is that some large German companies deem more important to protect their invention in China than in Europe. Some have more production capacity set up in China. They usually apply first for a patent in Germany and then consider it is enough for the EU market. They then apply in China. This cannot be taken as a general case, he said, but although he could not cite them, the EPO has concrete example of this trend. If countries are classified according to their number of inhabitants, the results are notably different and gives a clear advantage to Northern European countries. Battistelli said it shows better the innovative capacity of countries. For example, according to his presentation slide, Switzerland achieved a record number of 873 patent applications per million inhabitants in 2015, while the Netherlands’ showed 419, Sweden 392, Finland 365, Denmark 346, Germany 307, and Austria 230, to be compared to Japan 169, and the US 133. China is not among the top 20 countries under this classification. Where the Most Patents Are Found According to the EPO, in 2015, the leading fields for patent applications were medical technology, digital communication, computer technology, which are all on the rise. They were followed by electrical machinery and transport, both showing a decrease compared to 2014. Then comes measurement, organic fine chemistry, engines, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical, all of which increased in 2015. The top applicants are Philips, Samsung, LG, Huawei, Siemens, United Technologies, Qualcomm, Robert Bosch, BASF, and General Electric. EPO Reform Much as all other patent offices, Battistelli said the EPO needs some reforms. In particular, this is needed to address some challenges such as the increasing number of patent applications, and their increasing complexity. The rise in Asian patents is also a challenge and renders the assessment of patent applications very difficult, he said, because Asian patents are drafted in languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and that means that there is an increasing body of knowledge which is not accessible to analyse for patent examiners to assess novelty. To avoid the risk of having two patent systems running alongside: on the one side the western patents and the Asian/eastern patents on the other, some translation initiatives have to be taken. Battistelli mentioned the EPO’s “Patent Translate,” which allows translation in 28 European languages as well as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian. The EPO receives 20,000 translation requests per day, he said. One of the areas of focus of the reform was to improve the quality of patents. “This is our DNA, and our specificity,” he said. The reform is also meant to increase efficiency. The EPO “is the best in the world in terms of quality and also the most expensive one,” he said. Cost need to be controlled, he said. Timeliness also needed improvement and the legal and social framework needed to be modernised, he added. Reform Pays Off According to Battistelli, reforms started to pay off in 2015. In terms of production, there was an increase of 14 percent in the number of files treated in one year. Patents granted and published rose by 6 percent, he said. The backlog decreased by 66 percent, and it is hoped that the backlog will have fully disappeared by July 2016, he said. The success of reform benefits the EPO but also its staff, he said, mentioning a new performance-based career system, and the fact that 70 percent of staff were rewarded in 2015 through step advancements, promotions, and functional allowance, as well as a supplementary performance bonus. The EPO is the first of the five leading IP offices (IP5: EPO, Japan Patent Office, Korean Intellectual Property Office, the State Intellectual Property Office of China, and the US Patent and Trademark Office) to be awarded an ISO9001 certification for the full patent process, according to Battistelli. In 2014, the certification was given for patent granting process, and in 2015 for patent information and post-grant activities. The social reforms undertaken by Battistelli have led to social unrest within the organisation, in particular with one staff union (IPW, Europe, 29 February 2016). “We have an issue with one organisation” applying political pressure, he asserted, underlining that there had been no strikes in 2015. Battistelli announced today that a memorandum of understanding had been signed with one trade union (FFPE). It is a milestone, he argued, that will help constructive social dialogue. Battistelli Denies Alleged Retirement Package Asked about rumours about a possible “retirement package” of some €18million, and if his salary was over €1million a year, Battistelli said these allegations were the result of a defamation campaign which has been going on for some time. He qualified his relationship with the EPO Council as “excellent” and said the Council asked him to extend his mandate by three years. He said his salary is €300,000 per year and “not a single euro in bonus.” The €18million is the budgetary amount of all rewards given to staff in 2015, he said, which was divided between some 70 percent of the staff, about 5,500 people, he said. [Editor’s note: these claims of progress with staff relations and denial of negotiation for an exit package run contrary to reports and documents being circulated by information sources claiming inside information at the EPO. IP-Watch could not confirm these reports at press time.] Trade Secrets No Easier than Patents Asked about the rise of trade secrets, Battistelli said he never thought patent were the only solution and understands that companies might prefer trade secrets. Although there are more and more trade secrets, there are also more and more patent applications, he said. One must not think that trade secrets are less complicated than patents, he added, as companies have to organise the inside flow of information. There must be good reasons to opt for a trade secret, he said. Image Credits: Catherine Saez Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."European Patents Rising; EPO President Denies Retirement Package" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.