"As a champion of pan-European innovation protection, the European Patent Office knows it has a key part to play in implementing the Lisbon Strategy."
By stating in their Lisbon Declaration that they aimed to make Europe the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010, the European Union’s heads of state and government turned innovation protection and technology transfer into key items on the political agenda of the coming years. Yet the findings of last year’s report by Wim Kok show that there is still a sizeable gap between ambition and reality.
As an essential engine of knowledge transfer and a champion of effective innovation protection, the European Patent Office is aware that it has a major part to play in implementing the Lisbon Strategy. There is no other institution in which the strands of invention, innovation and commercial exploitation merge to the same extent, and there is no clearer proof than the doubling of annual filings between 1996 and 2004. European patents are a key factor in the European knowledge economy. The dynamic knowledge transfer process that has gripped both the global market and Europe’s internal market would be inconceivable without them. The growing number of countries designated in European patents is clear evidence of these trends, but so too is the steeply rising number of second filings: nowadays, for every invention, a patent application is filed in over eleven countries, compared with just two back in 1993.
A glance at the various fields of technology reveals the areas that are driving this growth: patents foster clever solutions in key technologies. They thereby support the change process initiated by the Lisbon Strategy, intended to transform Europe from a commodity-based to a knowledge-based economy.
The European Patent Office has taken on the task of promoting this process with its expertise and know-how, working in close co-operation with the EU institutions. Last year it made significant progress in the area of quality management and took a number of other steps to ensure ever-improving efficiency in the grant procedure. For the first time since the EPO was founded in 1977, all its patent examiners are grouped in a single directorate-general, and all its strategically important support departments, technical services and quality control are gathered together in another. This far-reaching internal restructuring is designed to further streamline and support the patent granting process. Over the coming years, this focusing of internal resources on core activities will enable the Office to continue fulfilling its duties and its responsibility as a central stimulus to technical innovation. In that way it will be able to continue to play its full part at the heart of the innovation process in Europe.