Co-operation with the member states
The main developments in 2005 were the maturing of an expanded co-operation policy designed to promote the efficiency of the European patent system and contribute directly to the Lisbon Agenda, and the creation of a separate Member States Department to manage working-level relations, in particular to discuss and co-ordinate policy and practice.
The Office continued to work with the member states on harmonising national-office databases recording European patent renewal fee payments with its own. In 2005 this led to a EUR 13m reduction in the difference between the payments it expected and actually received from the member states (excluding Italy) for 1989-2001, leaving a residual difference of EUR 1.79m for that period.
Progress was also made on the Electronic Patent and Trademark Office System project (EPTOS), and as a result 18 countries will soon have received the toolbox. Further offices are preparing co-operation agreements to provide for EPTOS installations.
At the annual Trilateral Conference in Munich in November between the EPO, the Japan Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the 23rd Memorandum of Understanding was signed, along with a bilateral Memorandum of Agreement on priority document exchange between the EPO and the USPTO.
Progress was made on the ongoing technical projects, and a strategy review was initiated to improve services to users.
At a public conference for Trilateral Office users, the heads of the three offices presented the results of the conference and their views on how their offices should contribute to the future of the patent system, and representatives from the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederation of Europe (UNICE), the Japan Intellectual Property Association (JIPA), the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) and the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) voiced the users’ views and needs. The 200 participants also visited an exhibition dedicated to the achievements of trilateral co-operation.
During the year, work continued on a project which aims to harmonise the three offices’ classification schemes, an important factor in search documentation efficiency.
The EC project for Ukraine which began in January 2005 was concluded at the end of June. Activities included support for establishing an innovation centre in Kiev, study visits with representatives of Ukrainian IP authorities and private companies to collective rights management societies and related institutions, a training event in Kiev for staff of Ukrainian IPR enforcement authorities, and support for establishing a database of IP-related judgments.
In the second half of 2005, the EPO began implementing two EC-funded projects in the Balkan region, with OHIM as implementing partner. One is designed to help the Croatian national IP office achieve European standards in the granting and administration of IP rights, the other to support the national IP office of Serbia and Montenegro, particularly in reinforcing its IT infrastructure.
Last year was a busy period for the EC-ASEAN Intellectual Property Rights Co-operation Programme, with seminars in Indonesia and Vietnam on geographical indication protection, a workshop for Thai customs officers on IPR border control, an ASEAN colloquium on a postgraduate IP curriculum, and an ASEAN symposium in Thailand on IPR (intellectual property rights) enforcement through specialised courts.
During Intellectual Property Week in the Philippines, a branding and brand management event was co-organised with OHIM. Last year the EC also launched an evaluation mission to assess the impact of the EC-ASEAN programme and the potential need for a new IPR programme to follow after 2006.
Other bilateral activities
In March representatives of the Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the Moscow-based International Science and Technology Centre visited the Office to study its examination, administration and automation procedures, and in May staff from the Russian and Eurasian Patent Offices joined Espacenet helpdesk staff to learn on the job with a view to development and implementation in their own offices.
At the end of July a delegation from the Russian Patent Office (Rospatent) came to the EPO to discuss various aspects of patent procedure and related activities, and discussions were resumed in October in Moscow, where the EPO took part in Rospatent’s 50th anniversary celebrations. In November, judges, lawyers, attorneys and customs officials from all over Uzbekistan took part in a workshop on IP dispute resolution.
The President paid a visit to the IP court in Thailand, and in return Thai IP court and supreme court judges studied European enforcement systems in Germany and the United Kingdom to learn from Europe’s experiences of IPR enforcement. The President also attended the Heads of IP Offices Conference in Hong Kong in February.
The 3rd Europe-Asia Patent Information Conference, co-organised with the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, took place in Singapore.
The annual Joint Committee Meeting between the EPO and SIPO (the Chinese Patent Office) was held in Beijing in December, together with celebrations for the 20th anniversary of EPO-SIPO bilateral co-operation. The action plan for 2006 was adopted, and a new framework for the future was agreed, providing for the transition from technical co-operation to a strategic partnership.
A regional forum on IP for Africa, “Intellectual property and development”, was held in Dakar in June, with the President attending. The EPO co-organised it with the UK and French Patent Offices, with support from WIPO. The President also attended the launch of a regional training centre for OAPI (the African Intellectual Property Organization) in Cameroon under the trilateral Memorandum of Understanding between OAPI, EPO and the French Patent Office on training in western Africa.
In Cairo, the President signed two Memoranda of Understanding, one with the Egyptian Patent Office on setting up a Patent Information Centre in the Library of Alexandria, the other with WIPO and the Egyptian Patent Office on setting up an IP training centre in Egypt.
EPOQUE Net, which provides access to the EPO’s search and documentation databases, is now being implemented in non-member states on a production basis. Last year Brazil became the first non-member state to sign up for the full service (for 145 users), followed by Norway with 83 users, while Mexico began using it on a one-year test basis for five users and is likely to switch to full production use in 2006.
The EPO also co-ordinated the collection of bibliographic and full-text patent data from non-member states, which also involved supplying scanning and indexing tools and training national office staff to use them. By the end of 2005 it had helped the Egyptian Office to scan or otherwise digitise all its published granted patents according to WIPO standards.