Welcome to the Annual Report of the European Patent Office for the year 2012.
Last year saw significant progress on a range of issues, not least the unitary patent for Europe, expansion of our patent databases, introduction of machine translation and the creation of an improved patent classification scheme. But first: I would like to mention a few figures
In terms of filings, the EPO continues to go from strength to strength. In 2012, we received a total of 258 000 filings, thereby setting yet another record. Once again, well over 60% of our filings came from countries outside Europe, with particular growth from Asia. This is a measure of our Office's global standing. Demand for our international patent services remains strong, and for the third year in a row users voted the EPO as having the highest quality of any of the five major offices. In the same year, the EPO granted 65 000 patents.
These figures show the high attractiveness of the products and services provided by the EPO to the users' community. It also highlights the willingness of businesses to continue to invest in R&D and to protect it adequately, despite economic difficulties.
By far the most momentous news for us this year was the long-awaited political agreement on a unified patent system for Europe. The unitary patent will cover a large territory of 25 EU Member States. It will be granted by the EPO, following our rules and proceedings, as any classical European Patent, with the same level of quality. For the users, it will represent a great simplification in terms of administrative procedures as well as a strong reduction of the costs, rendering the European patent system even more attractive.
Our other key advances in 2012 all relate to patent information, and all are testament to the great cooperation we enjoy with other patent offices around the world. Thanks to deals with the IP authorities in China, Korea, Japan, Russia and Brazil - to name just a few - we have radically expanded our public database, Espacenet, to over 80 - eight zero - million documents.
Thanks to cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office - USPTO, have jointly created an improved patent classification system - incorporating the best features of their scheme and ours. This Cooperative Patent Classification - CPC has over a quarter of a million categories for all manner of technologies, and is set to become a new global standard helping examiners and others make more efficient and effective searches.
Finally, in 2012 we launched Patent Translate: our machine translation service, removing the language barrier to patent information. Already available for 13 European languages, plus Chinese, this software continually learns and improves. In the year ahead we will double the spread of language modules too.
The last year was one of great achievement - by patent offices, by applicants and by public decision makers. I pay tribute to all our partners who have contributed to our success, and I look forward to 2013 with great confidence.
"For the third year in a row users voted the EPO as having the highest quality of any of the five major offices."