The European Patent Academy, the EPO's central provider for external training, organised a broad range of training events for industry and patent system stakeholders in 2009. There were two major public events for industry: "Search Matters" in March, which attracted over a hundred patent searchers, and "Patent Strategy and IP Management" for over 90 researchers and managers from the German medical technologies sector in December. Seminars for business advisers included five workshops on intellectual property (IP) strategy, as well as five IP training sessions for audiences from organisations such as the Enterprise Europe Network and PRO-INNO Europe.
In co-operation with the epi, the Academy organised an EPC training programme for experienced national patent attorneys, with the underlying aim of helping to set up national vocational training schemes for professional representatives before the EPO, especially in countries where such opportunities are currently limited. In December it held a seminar for patent professionals, "Examination Matters", which was attended by over fifty patent practitioners and was in a format that allowed close interaction between professional representatives and EPO examiners.
Events for the European judiciary in 2009 ranged from EPO study visits and patent enforcement and litigation seminars to high level workshops and forums. In October, the fifth European Judges' Forum was held in Venice, as part of a campaign to promote top-level debate on patent litigation issues in Europe.
October also saw the publication of the Patent Teaching Kit, developed by the Academy to help promote awareness of patents among students and designed for use by university lecturers in various disciplines with no special expertise in the patent field. Nearly two thousand copies have already been downloaded from the EPO website, and the Academy has run several train-the trainer workshops to introduce the material to interested teachers at universities of various member states.
In the course of the year, more than twenty training seminars dedicated to the patenting process and related topics were held at the EPO and at the national offices of Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Turkey for national IP office staff and other civil servants.
There was also a high demand for distance learning, especially e-learning, and the Academy successfully implemented its Learning Management System and a new online registration system. Its e-learning library currently contains over a hundred publicly available e-learning modules.
The European Patent Forum, held in Prague in April in combination with the European Commission's biennial PATINNOVA conference, brought together over 250 patent applicants and attorneys, innovation stakeholders and experts from research and government to explore the theme of IP as a stimulus to innovation in rapidly developing industries. Its key topics were the IP system's role in the knowledge society, policy issues, and current legal and business practice in fields ranging from mobile communications to nanotechnology, and the keynote speakers included Czech Prime Minister and EU Council President Mirek Topolánek and Director-General Heinz Zourek from the Commission's DG Enterprise and Industry.
The event ran in parallel with the European Inventor Award ceremony, which attracted around 450 guests from government, business and civil society and was hosted by Miroslav Sládek, President of the Czech Parliament. The awards went to inventors of an effective drug to combat myelogenous leukaemia, a heat exchanger that makes heating systems both energy-efficient and inexpensive, an anti-malaria drug based on a herbal agent, and pioneering work on solar energy that makes solar cells a commercially viable alternative to fossil fuels.
The PATLIB 2009 conference in Sofia in May was attended by some 250 delegates from patent information centres around Europe. Its theme, "Building on best practices", highlighted the PATLIB network's function as a forum in which Europe's patent information centres can learn from each other and disseminate successful ideas.
In October the EPO ran a workshop at the European Commission's Open Days in Brussels, with a view among other things to promoting innovation at the EU regional level, with a special focus on technology transfer.
The annual Patent Information Conference, held in Biarritz in November and attended by around 300 patent searchers and specialists, focused on quality in patent databases and concluded that there was an inextricable link between quality in the patent system and the quality of data.
As part of its patent awareness campaign, the Office in 2009 attended a dozen exhibitions and trade fairs, mainly devoted to biotechnology, nanotechnology and IT.
At the end of December 2009 the list of professional representatives contained 9 643 entries, 287 more than a year before, the new entries relating to successful candidates in the European qualifying examination (EQE) and to persons registered after the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and San Marino acceded to the EPC. The number of representatives registered under the EPC's transitional provisions continued to fall, and now constitutes only 34.5 % of the total. Fig. 1
31 new associations of representatives were registered, bringing the total to 281, the majority located in Germany, followed by Switzerland and the United Kingdom. There were 86 new registrations of legal practitioners authorised to act as representatives before the EPO, which brings the total to 1 360.
The 2009 EQE was held in March. There were 2 251 candidates, slightly fewer than in 2008, and 1 971 actually sat the examination. In total, 473 people passed the exam, a pass rate of 24 %.
The revised regulation governing the EQE entered into force at the beginning of the year, with implementation due to be finalised by the end of 2010, and preparations began for the first pre-examination, scheduled to be held in 2012. The modified examination procedure will help to increase transparency and provide better support to candidates, thereby improving the efficiency of the examination.