European Patent Office Issues Report On Future, Celebrates Present19/04/2007 by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (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)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen MUNICH – The European Patent Office (EPO) has published a report on what the intellectual property rights system may look like in the future, while it celebrates the present and its 30th anniversary this year.The celebration was kicked off by a colourful dance and music show on the opening day of the 18-19 April European Patent Forum/PATINNOVA 07. The show was commissioned by the EPO and performed by international artists. It visually raised questions that are increasingly being asked of the intellectual property system, such as what is the correct balance between private and public rights, and the need for resilience and flexibility.The European Patent Forum, sponsored by the EPO, and PATINNOVA, sponsored by the European Commission, involved parallel panels and joint plenary sessions. The forum focused on patent systems and PATINNOVA on small and medium-sized enterprises.Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and President of the Council of the European Union, visited the event, calling the EPO a “story of success,” referring to the growth in patent applications and members, up from seven original members to 32. “We need to have a robust European patent office,” she said.The issue of to whom the EPO is accountable was raised by participants of one of the breakout sessions and may be among the challenges the EPO is facing, along with backlogs in applications and handling time, sources said. EPO President Alain Pompidou said there is an “under-use of patents in Europe.”Ian Harvey, chairman of the UK-based Intellectual Property Institute, told Intellectual Property Watch that the rapid growth in patent applications from China is in danger of overwhelming the patent system in Europe, Japan and the United States as currently only 3 percent of these applications are filed outside of China. He said IP activity in China is growing dramatically, with more patent litigation taking place there than anywhere else. He said Germany has trained some 400 specialist IP judges in China, while the European Commission is also involved in similar projects. [Correction: Germany gave most of the technical assistance to set up the IP system in China, but the EU funded the training of the 400 judges, according to Harvey.]The EPO report on the future of IP, entitled Scenarios for the Future, is an attempt to address these challenges faced by EPO as well as others in the run-up to 2025, which was set as the time period for the scenarios, sources said.Scenarios for the Future has been some two years in the making and involved interviews with some 150 experts from non-governmental organisations to industry, Pompidou said. It contains four sections: business, geopolitics, society and technology. The EPO said 20,000 copies have been made available for free.Konstantinos Karachalios of the EPO told Intellectual Property Watch that there is “a lot of tension” in the patent system at the moment that is also being felt in the EPO, and the Scenarios for the Future project is a reaction to this. He said EPO had decided that the debate would take place in any case and, and if EPO was not proactive, it would not be part in this dialogue.Rafael Ramirez of the Said Business School at Oxford University, who has done scenario projects for 27 years and who has been involved in the project, said this was “quite a courageous project” and as good as scenarios could be. He said scenarios are not what you make happen, but what happens to you, and they can help you shape the choices made in the present.The report was conducted for the public but parts of the research would also be used internally in EPO, he said. Karachalios said that EPO was somewhat “free” to do this as it is not a political organisation and not part of the European Union, but he recognised that this was a political project.The report is “original,” he said. It is a tool for EPO to communicate and debate the future of IP and through it, EPO has built a network as well as expectations. He thus believed this was a “temporary culmination” and that the project would continue.Jean-Pierre Contzen, special adviser to the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education in Portugal, said on one of the panels that while the scenario report was quite comprehensive, it was not sufficiently proactive and contained an “element of fatality.” He said it would become more important for patent offices to cooperate in the future to face staff challenges.In a workshop on the future of IP, issues such as the fight for energy (e.g. oil) and the climate were raised as crucial, along with capitalism and an increase in individual living conditions. James Love of Knowledge Ecology International said he believed collective management of IP would rise in the future, with patents no longer being exclusive. He predicted a change in the system, much like the Internet having gone from being pay-per-minute to a flat fee, and that this model would spread also to biomedicine.Separately, a highlight of PATINNOVA 07 was a European Inventor of the Year gala evening and award ceremony was held on 18 April. Professor Marc Feldmann from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award. More information about the winners is available at the EPO’s website.Tove Gerhardsen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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