13 March 2013
The EPO's Economic and Scientific Advisory Board (ESAB) has issued a statement with recommendations for improving the patent system, based on the main findings of its 2012 activities. Along with this statement, the ESAB has also published the reports of three workshops it conducted in 2012, namely on patent quality, the role of fees, and patent thickets.
In these publications the Board highlights the importance of patent quality in boosting innovation. It points out that improving patent quality will require action at both the pre-and post-grant stages of the patenting process. In the pre-grant phase, specific measures are needed to address the speed and quality of patent examination. At the post-grant stage, opposition or re-examination proceedings require improvement, together with the litigation system. On this latter point, the establishment of Europe's Unified Patent Court is expected to make a major contribution.
In its third study - on patent thickets - the Board clearly states that it does not regard such "thickets" as a root cause of problems in the patent system. It concludes that measures to improve patent quality will help to reduce the complexity of the system and thus deal with patent thickets indirectly.
At its second annual meeting in January 2013, ESAB members also decided on the three specific policy issues to be addressed in 2013: the economic effects of the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court, two questions of particular relevance following the recent decisions taken at the EU level, and the possible impact of a grace period in Europe from an economic perspective.