work continued on building a quality management system based on the International
Organization for Standardization's ISO 9001 standard. In particular, a gap
analysis was performed to determine what action was needed to make the Office's
search and examination areas fully ISO-compliant.
The emphasis is on involving applicants and their representatives in the process of improving application quality. To this end, under the "Partnership for Quality" banner, two meetings dedicated to quality issues were held with the Institute of Professional Representatives before the EPO (the epi) and the Confederation of European Business (BUSINESSEUROPE) and another with the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). The aim is to ensure that all participants in the patent granting process are fully committed to improving the quality of search and examination products and services.
In 2007 the Office registered 225 user complaints and examined them for underlying procedural flaws, a slight decrease compared to 2006. 48 % were considered justified and remedies were found for the plaintiffs. Under the quality management system, efforts are now being made to prevent such occurrences in the future. Systematic quality control checks involving sampling 6 - 8 % of search reports and granted applications are now in place through out the search and examination areas, enabling a picture to be built up on a regular basis so that preventive and corrective action can be taken.
A new procedure is being developed to ensure that any changes to practice, resulting for example from decisions taken by the boards of appeal, are professionally taught to examiners rather than their having to rely on written instructions alone.
In the course of the year, the number
of electronically searchable documents in the EPO's main search database -
which covers 78 countries and is available to the public via esp@cenet - rose to over
60 million, and the number of facsimile digitised documents, both patent and
non-patent literature, rose by more than 7 million to 78 million documents. A
special effort was made to improve the oriental patent data coverage of the
Office's search collections by acquiring more data for countries such as China
and Japan, and in the field of non-patent literature work continued on adding
new databases covering standards, a highly relevant and much-cited source of
prior art in some technical fields.
Over 3.5 million documents were added or updated in the bibliographic master database, which now contains the bibliographic data for over 66 million documents, and around a million corrections were made to improve data quality. The EPO citation database containing information on patent and non-patent literature cited in applications and publications was further extended and now features 83 million references to 12.5 million applications or publications. Quality control and correction work yielded over half a million corrections relating to 6.2 million cited documents.
One of the major classification activities was the document reclassification
entailed by the revision of the advanced level of the International Patent
Classification (IPC). The Office reclassified a large proportion of the world's
patent documents in the revised areas as a result of European Classification (ECLA)
reclassification work done by its examiners.
The MASAI system (Main Administration Support for Activities in International Applications), designed to handle PCT procedures within the EPO, entered into production in March as part of the Office's policy of sup porting customers by integrating all patent administration services under a single desktop.