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EPO_Portrait of an examiner

to disclose every aspect of their inventions to Katerina, and she will grant patent protection only if an idea is new and industrially applic- able and also involves some form of inventive step. She works on close to a hundred patent applications a year. Katerina’s working day begins with a yellow document folder shining like a beacon on her desk, containing documents in which an ap- plicant describes an invention and precisely defines the subject-matter for which protection is required. Some applications are short, while others are a few hundred pages long and in- clude dozens of claims; but the examination process is always the same: Katerina assigns the application to a particular field of techno- logy, and then on her computer she launches SEA ("Suite of Examiners’ Applications"), a set of IT tools with which she can search through as many as 90 databases to assess whether the invention is genuinely new and whether "a step forward has been made". Global economy is changing Over her desk there’s a periodic table listing all the elements and their properties – informa- tion that Katerina of course has in her head. On her shelves there are textbooks on the chemistry of cement and the latest patent sys- tem regulations. "You have to read a lot to keep up to date", she says, "both on the legal front and on trends in industry." Occasionally too she takes a break from her office and visits building companies and materials manufac- turers to find out more about the business and its laws. Every bit of information helps. "People always imagine we only deal with revolutions like the steam engine", Katerina says, "but mostly we are looking at incremental improve- ments and little adjustments which enhance the efficiency or quality of an existing product or process." But she also happily recalls an ap- plication for the manufacture of geopolymers, where she was unable to find a single earlier or related document during the search phase. "I realised it was either nonsense or something really big." It was something big. Days like that you never forget. The applications that cross Katerina’s desk also give her a good idea of what is going on in the world.The growth in filings from eastern Europe and China, for example, reflects the changing global economy, and the many ap- » Viele meiner Freunde und Bekannten denken, dass ich eine Art sturen Beamtenjob mache. » A lot of my friends think I do a typically boring civil servant's job. » Nombre de mes amis pensent que j'accomplis un travail ad- ministratif rebutant. » Der Büroflur als Transitraum: Theodoridou kooperiert eng mit ihren Kollegen, die aus aller Herren Länder stammen. Jeder Arbeitsbesuch eine Europareise. Transit corridor for patents: Katerina’s job involves working with colleagues from all over Europe – all under one roof. Les couloirs s’apparentent à une salle de transit : Katerina Theodoridou collabore étroite- ment avec ses collègues de toute l’Europe. 6Europäisches Patentamt European Patent Office Office européen des brevets