9 May 2012
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'Patent quality' and 'pricing and patent fees' - these were the subjects of the first two workshops organised by EPO's Economic and Scientific Advisory Board on 7 and 8 May. At its inaugural meeting in January, the Board had selected these topics as a starting point for its reflections on the patent system and that system's economic and societal effects.
Some 40 economists, lawyers, patent practitioners, licensing experts and university researchers from Europe, the USA and Asia met in Munich to discuss what 'patent quality' meant to different stakeholders. Participants agreed that 'patent quality' was of utmost importance in the patent system to ensure maximum societal benefit and to avoid distortion in the economy. It was felt that there was room for improvement in areas such as prior art search - in particular in Asian languages - and international harmonisation and collaboration, e.g. the exchange of search and examination results. A number of concrete proposals in these areas were put forward and discussed.
On 'patent fees and pricing' the experts discussed at what level and point in the procedure fees should be levied in order to best support innovation. Several participants pointed out that office fees were relatively low compared to the cost, for example, of attorneys, translations and national validations. A lively discussion ensued about reduced fees or subsidies for SMEs and universities.
Bringing academic experts together with practitioners like this proved to be a very useful way of exploring specific ideas while at the same time considering their workability. A third workshop, on patent thickets, will be organised by the Economic and Scientific Advisory Board in September.
Detailed reports of the proceedings of all workshops will be published later this year.