The setting up of the EPO represented a major step forward in the history of patents. Its reputation depends on all employees, regardless of nationality, working harmoniously together and giving of their best. But it is on the search, examination and opposition, more than anything else, that the EPO will be judged by the patent world.
Employees of the EPO work with colleagues who not only speak a different language but also come from a different patent background with different training. Some may also have had experience in their national patent office. It is important therefore to remember that all employees in the EPO are working under a common system as laid down in the EPC. They should all apply the same standard and in some instances this will mean abandoning previous habits and ways of thought.
It is also important that the various departments of the EPO and various staff within the same department should not attempt to duplicate one another's efforts. For example, Examining Divisions should not attempt to check the formalities work performed by the Receiving Section or to duplicate the search work performed by the Search Division. One of the purposes of the Guidelines is to make clear where the demarcations of responsibility lie.
It should not be forgotten that the reputation of the EPO will depend not only on quality but also on the speed with which it deals with its work. The EPC imposes various time limits on the parties. Generally speaking there are no corresponding time limits imposed on the EPO, but the European patent system will be judged a success only if examiners and other employees also operate with reasonable expedition.
Finally, it should hardly need stating that all European applications and patents, regardless of their country of origin and the language in which they are written, should receive equal treatment. An international patent system can be credible only if all trace of national bias is absent.