Ever more European patent applications are being filed directly with the EPO. In 2005 there were 16 900 first filings with no national priority – 10.2% up on the year before. Total filings rose by 7.2% to over 193 600.
Since mid-2005, the EPO has been issuing the European search report together with an initial opinion on the filed invention’s patentability, the European search opinion. This helps applicants decide at an early stage whether it is worth continuing with the proceedings.
The EPO now has over 53 million documents in its main search database. It has added 1.3 million Chinese patent documents to its databases, some of them relating to traditional Chinese knowledge.
The EPO’s European Patent Academy opened its doors at the start of 2005. During its first year it attracted some 3 000 participants to its courses and seminars.
Increasing numbers of patent attorneys are qualifying as professional representatives by passing the European qualifying examination. In 2005 the number of European patent representatives rose to 8 500, and at the same time the proportion of EQE graduates among them increased to over 53%.
In tandem with the annual Trilateral Conference between the EPO, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Munich, there was a users’ meeting for the industrial federations of the three regions. In addition, the EPO and the USPTO signed an agreement on electronic exchange of priority documents.
In the course of the year, Latvia became the European Patent Organisation’s 31st member state. In all, with the five “extension states”, the European patent system now offers inventors patent protection in 36 European states.
In December the EPO and the Chinese Patent Office (SIPO) held celebrations in Beijing to mark twenty years of bilateral co-operation, at the same time agreeing to upgrade the relationship from technical co-operation to a strategic partnership.