In its second year the Academy provided over seventy seminars, workshops and conferences, in addition to promoting and supporting the patent-related IP training activities of many partners throughout Europe. A key aspect of the Academy’s strategy in this regard is the Innovation Support Training Programme, launched in 2006 and comprising eight one-week modules to be delivered over two years. The programme is designed to strengthen the role of the national IP offices in supporting industries in their national and regional environment in the field of innovation and IP management.
National office staff and other civil servants took part in a range of seminars and workshops covering topics such as IP training design, IP mapping, IP information sharing, patent documentation, quality management, patenting practice and related tools.
As part of its activities to encourage IP teaching and research in universities, the Academy in September organised the first European Patent Summer Course, in cooperation with Bocconi and St Gallen Universities. The course brought practitioners in the field of intellectual property (IP) management together with academics and researchers to discuss the latest issues in patent strategy and management.
Seminars in the new “IP training for national judges” series were held in Barcelona and Sofia, and in future will be held several times a year in different European countries with the aim of harmonising knowledge of the European patent system in the judiciary across member states. In addition, the
second Venice Judges’ Forum was held in November in cooperation with the European Patent Lawyers’ Association and provided a discussion platform for Europe’s most experienced IP judges.
Seminars for business audiences in Ljubljana, Bucharest and Warsaw demonstrated the many roles patents can play in the innovation process. They covered topics such as patent portfolio management, licensing, enforcement, strategic issues and patent information.
Patent information training continued with a series of seminars in member states and at the training centre in Vienna and with the four-day beginners’ seminar, which was held twice. In all, more than a thousand people took part in this training, which included new courses such as the Fit for Asia seminar and a seminar on patent mapping and patent strategy. A special training event on Chinese, Korean and Japanese patent information took place in Vienna in September, attracting visitors from Europe and the USA.
Throughout 2006 an expanding series of e-learning modules was made available to the public, and the World Patent Finder (esp@cenet) assistant, a feature that users can call up whenever they feel they would like to learn more about this database, was consulted over 360 000 times.
The transitional period following Latvia’s accession in July 2005 expired on 1 July 2006, by which time 23 Latvian professional representatives had been added to the EPO’s list under Article 163 EPC, known as the grandfather clause. In the last two years, “grandfathers” from eastern European countries and Turkey have shown a marked tendency to be deleted from the list, either at their own request or because they have failed to pay the registration fees to epi.
In September 2006, 470 candidates passed the European qualifying examination, and almost all of them have now been added to the list under Article 134 EPC. Article 134 entries exceed Article 163 entries by around 14% (56.9% against 43.1%).
Overall in the course of the year, 488 professional representatives were added to the list, 198 were deleted, and about 2 400 requested a change in their registration. So at the end of the year there were 8 792 active representatives on the list, compared with 8 502 a year before. Fig. 1
Fourteen new associations of professional representatives were registered in 2006, bringing the total to 216. The majority of these associations are located in Germany (135), followed by Switzerland (29) and the United Kingdom (17).
At the end of the year, 73 new legal practitioners had been registered in the database under Article 134(7) EPC. Thus there are now 1 144 such practitioners authorised to act as representatives before the EPO.
A regional programme of workshops for patent attorneys in new member states has been set up with the national patent offices and patent attorney associations in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These work-shops, run by the European Patent Academy in cooperation with the European Patent Institute (epi), have provided practical experience in European procedures and helped national attorneys in these countries make the transition to their new European profession.
A new resource from the European Patent Academy has been a dedicated internet forum for EQE candidates. The platform enables candidates to receive expert advice and participate in discussion with tutors, as well as work through online exercises and structured practice on important examination-related topics.
Conferences, fairs and exhibitions
In March, over 3 000 members of the public came to an Open Day at the EPO’s premises in The Hague, at which various departments gave presentations. Coming a year after a similarly successful exercise in Munich, this confirms the public’s keen interest in the Office’s work.
In April, the annual two-day “Seminar on Search and Documentation Working Methods” held in The Hague demonstrated EPO know-how in patent search tools and techniques to an audience of over 230 patent search professionals from industry.
In Brussels in May, the EPO and the European Commission hosted the first-ever European Inventor of the Year awards ceremony, a joint initiative with the Commission’s DG Enterprise and Industry. It attracted nearly 400 guests and formed part of a two-day conference that was attended by around 140 high-profile participants from Europe, the USA and Asia. The first day of the conference focused on how to ensure a competitive patent system for Europe; the second dealt with patents and IP protection in China.
Also in May, the annual conference of Europe’s patent information centres (PATLIB) was held in Prague and was coorganised with the Czech Patent Office on totally new lines. Its theme was “Serving innovation”, and it drew 400 participants from 47 countries, including 28 member states. The Patent Information Conference 2006 was held in November in Paphos, Cyprus, with some 400 delegates and 34 exhibitors, and addressed a broad range of issues, including machine translation technology and the increasing use of patent analysis as part of the strategic planning process in business.
The 15th meeting of the European Round-Table on Patent Practice (EUROTAB), held in Ljubljana in May, attracted around forty participants from the national offices. Notable items on the agenda included inventive step, correcting grant decisions after publication, and unity of invention with divisional applications.
The 13th annual consultative meeting between members of the boards of appeal and representatives of BUSINESSEUROPE (formerly UNICE) and the epi was held in Munich in June, and the 13th Patent Judges’ Symposium was held in Thessaloniki (Greece) in September, with over 120 participants representing 36 countries.
The Office staged several online services events in the course of the year, including a user day in Warsaw in June attended by 80 participants, mostly from Poland but including delegates from thirteen other European countries, and the Online Services Annual Conference 2006 in Lisbon in October, which attracted over 250 delegates from 28 countries.
The first two-day conference on patent statistics, held in October at the Austrian Patent Office in cooperation with the OECD, was a sign of the growing demand amongst policy-makers for reliable statistical data as a basis for decisions to promote innovation strategies.
In London in November, the EPO in partnership with the OECD and the UK Patent Office ran a conference on “Patents: realising and securing value”, which attracted an audience of 140 to review the latest financial tools and techniques associated with patents.
In December, a conference on pharmaceuticals and patents which was designed to raise patent awareness in the European Parliament was coorganised with MEPs in Brussels. Along with MEPs and members of the European Commission, the 100-strong audience included representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, SMEs and BUSINESSEUROPE.
In the course of 2006, the Office attended some 31 exhibitions and trade fairs, at which it held sixteen public presentations and seminars, focusing on biotechnology and computing.
The annual publication Ancillary Regulations to the EPC, a collection of important secondary legislation related to the EPC and of the EPO President’s most important decisions along with communications and Legal Advice notices, appeared in August.
The September issue of the EPO’s Official Journal was accompanied by the annual special edition devoted to case law, which presents reports on board rulings from the previous year; and the fifth edition of Case Law of the Boards of Appeal of the EPO, a digest of the boards’ entire case law in the three official languages, was published in March 2007.
In 2006 the Organisation’s Research Fund received seven applications for financial support. As recommended by the Research Advisory Board, the President decided to award grants to four projects, relating to European companies’ patent infringement clearance practice; business method patentability and social process; patent data analysis on emerging innovation systems in the Baltic states; and a comparative study for the data availability and reliability of possible innovation indicators in Turkey and Europe using a model country-level innovation performance tracking platform.