Keeping track of numerous parallel applications is a challenge for companies and inventors, though many patents are linked as a "family" (applications for the same invention filed at multiple offices) through common priority dates. We launched several initiatives in 2014 to help our users manage their applications more effectively and thus save time and money by providing a single point of access to information on how their applications are progressing at different patent offices.
As part of its co-operation in the grouping of the five largest IP offices in the world (known as the "IP5"), the EPO with China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) introduced a new service in 2014 called the Global Dossier. It provides a free online file inspection (also known as a "file wrapper") service that allows users to access SIPO's publicly available documents directly on the EPO website - on both the European Patent Register (for files of any Chinese family member of a European patent application) and Espacenet (useful for retrieving file wrappers from China that do not have a European family member). In addition, automatic machine translation is built in to provide English-language versions of the Chinese original documents. In 2015 the Global Dossier service will be extended to include file-wrapper data from the remaining IP5 offices too, namely KIPO, JPO and the USPTO.
Another example of consolidating information from many sources is our ongoing effort to improve access to legal status information in Europe by means of the Federated European Patent Register service. Thanks to the first phase of this project, called "deep linking", the user can directly access the online registers of national patent offices across Europe. Launched from the European Patent Register in 2011, the number of deep-linked countries is steadily rising. In 2014 two more countries were added. This means that the post-grant legal status of European patents in the national phase (for currently 27 patent offices) can be ascertained very quickly. A similar deep-linking functionality is progressively being added to Espacenet, allowing users to find the legal status for national applications without an EP family member. This functionality has so far been implemented in 16 member states.
The Common Citation Document (CCD), another tool available through the EPO's global patent database Espacenet, also saw its scope extended in 2014, with the addition of citation data from China's SIPO. The CCD consolidates the prior art cited by all participating patent offices for the family members of a patent application, thus enabling the search results for the same invention produced by several offices to be viewed on a single page. Thanks to recent efforts, the tool now gives users a consolidated view of search reports from 30 patent authorities - including the five largest IP offices in the world - via a single entry point.