Documentation & patent information

Data resources
Data management and quality

Data classification

Computer-based search
Patent Information


Data resources


In 2006, the number of electronically searchable documents in the EPO’s main search database rose again to around 57.1 million. This database covers 78 countries and is available to the public via the World Patent Finder (esp@cenet).

The number of facsimile digitised documents, both patent and non-patent literature, rose by 9.8 million to 71.1 million documents, a 30% increase over 2005. Dedicated efforts were again made to acquire new databases in the fields of telecommunication standards and traditional knowledge.

Data management and quality

In 2006, over 4.2 million documents were added or updated in the bibliographic master database, which now contains the bibliographic data for over 62 million documents, and over 1.2 million corrections were made to improve data quality. One of the major achievements was the loading of Korean bibliographic data: the database now contains an English title and abstract for every Korean application from 2001 onwards.

The EPO citation database containing information on patent and non-patent literature cited in applications and publications currently features 70 million references relating to 14 million applications or publications. Quality control and correction work in 2006 resulted in 240 000 manual corrections relating to 6 million cited documents.

Efforts were focused on rebuilding a system which supports PCT procedures within the Office. This rebuilt system furthers the Office policy of supporting users by integrating all patent administration services into a single desktop, rather than users having to access particular databases or systems. 2006 saw the completion of the development, system test and user acceptance test phases, and the new system will be rolled out in spring 2007 as a major component in a single viewer.

By the end of 2006, 17 member states had received an Electronic Patent and Trademark Office System (EPTOS) set. Under the new cooperation programme adopted by the Administrative Council at the end of 2006, the deployment of EPTOS to all further interested countries will be pursued, with the main focus on handling patent procedures, including the World Patent Finder (esp@cenet) and European Register (Register Plus) functions. In 2007 all components will be published in open source.

Data classification

One of the major classification activities was the implementation of the International Patent Classification (IPC) reform that entered into force at the beginning of 2006. Procedures for revision of the IPC advanced level and for document reclassification – a new activity starting in 2007 – were put in place on schedule in the second half of the year.

Progress was also made on over 50 subprojects forming part of the Trilateral Offices’ Harmony Project, an ongoing exercise seeking to harmonise the classification schemes of the EPO, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in order to improve the efficiency of searches in the structured documentation.


Computer-based search

At the end of 2006, the strategic search tool and the primary computer-based retrieval system enabled a full search to be performed in more than 331 million records. On average per month, 5 200 examiners in the EPO and in the patent offices of member and non-member states now use the retrieval system for their searches.

Patent Information

The year under review saw some major enhancements to the World Patent Finder (esp@cenet). The most significant was the launch of an automatic translation feature which allows users to translate any part of the text of a patent document from English into Spanish, French and German, and vice versa.

The service also has a new “forward citations” feature, which shows where a patent document has been cited in search reports for later patent applications; and automatic hyperlinks to the European Register (Register Plus) are now generated whenever a record for a European patent application is viewed. Furthermore, in June the EPO launched a Japanese-language interface, making the service even more convenient for Japanese users.

In order to use the full potential of XML technology, the Office started tagging the references cited by the applicant in the core of the description of the patent document. The tagged citations are made available in the databases and are displayed at the end of European patent documents, enabling users to call up the cited documents via the European Publication Server.

Following distribution of the first edition of the Worldwide Patent Statistical Database, comments and suggestions from the 27 institutions that had received it formed the basis for a revised and updated edition distributed in autumn 2006.

The Office’s optical disc based patent information products (ESPACE) are now also available online. The online availability offers more choice in the way of using the long-standing optical disc products, which function as a professional alternative to the free services on the internet.

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