9 October 2015
This year the European Patent Office and China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) celebrate 30 years of bilateral co-operation - a partnership that has had a profound impact on intellectual property worldwide. The EPO and the SIPO looked back at the achievements of three decades of collaboration at a conference today in Lyon, France, which was attended by more than 140 high-level Chinese and European experts from industry, government, academia and the patent profession. Lyon was a natural choice to host the event, being a historic centre of commerce and culture, and now a high-tech hub; it is also home to the Institut Franco-Chinois de Lyon, the first Chinese university founded abroad.
"The close co-operation between the patent offices of Europe and China has been instrumental in developing a modern and efficient intellectual property system in China, which greatly benefits innovating businesses in both regions," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "The fact that the European and Chinese patent systems have much in common today strengthens the capacity of our regions as premier hubs of innovation, and has also proven a boon for bilateral trade," he said. "As patent protection is increasingly in demand worldwide, our co-operation has also become a pillar of the global patent system," he added.
"The SIPO has always placed great importance on co-operation with the EPO," said SIPO Commissioner Shen Changyu. "Over the past 30 years, China's intellectual property system has grown from a standing start to greatness, with remarkable achievements along the way. China has become a strong IP nation. Given the increasing importance of IP, the SIPO and the EPO will engage in deeper and more extensive co-operation to jointly promote innovation. I am convinced that this will make an even greater contribution to the development of economies, technologies and cultures in China and Europe; it will also strengthen the development of global intellectual property and bring more benefits to innovators worldwide."
EU-China trade has increased dramatically in recent years. China is now the EU's second largest trading partner behind the US, and the EU has been China's largest trading partner for the past 10 years. Trade between China and the EU is now worth more than €1 billion a day. For European companies wanting to gain access to the large Chinese market, the existence of a well-functioning patent system is imperative.
The EPO has supported China in building a patent system from the ground up and creating one of the leading offices worldwide. The EPO and the Chinese Patent Office (CPO), the forerunner of the SIPO, signed their first formal co-operation agreement in 1985. In the early years, co-operation centred on an intensive programme of training for Chinese patent office staff (nearly 1 000 staff from the SIPO have come to Europe for training over the years). It grew over time from largely technical assistance to more strategic collaboration, helping China to revise its patent regulations and introduce state-of-the-art tools for patent examination. One milestone was the SIPO's adoption of the EPO's in-house tool for search and documentation, EPOQUE, which meant the Chinese office fully integrating the platform into its own internal systems. From 1993 until 2011, the EPO supported the implementation of two major intellectual property-related projects in China on behalf of the European Union, focusing on areas such as patent legislation, IP awareness and enforcement. These efforts helped to prepare China's accession to the WTO in 2001, and to pave the way for a modern IP system in the country.