Annual Report 2014

Highlights of 2014

Improving access to Asian patent data

The volume of prior art from Asia is growing fast. That poses a major challenge to patent offices and applicants alike. In 2014 we thus worked closely with our Asian partners to enhance our patent documentation from the region, and to refine our tools and services to better search, retrieve and use it.

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The patent offices of China, Japan and Korea today receive more than 60% of the total of the world's patent filings. These documents represent a large and rapidly growing part of the ‘prior art' which needs to be made available to patent examiners and also to companies, researchers and scientists screening patent documents related to the latest technologies. After all, the quality of a patent strongly depends on the completeness and accessibility of pertinent prior art.

Maximising Asian data coverage...

Asia3 Thanks to close co-operation with our partner offices in Asia, we reached nearly 100% coverage of patent documentation from the major Asian countries in 2014. EPO patent examiners now have access to more than 30 million Japanese, Chinese and Korean patent documents for their work, going back at least three decades. We have English-language abstracts for almost every Asian patent document and the full text automatic translations for most of the recent ones. Through the EPO's Espacenet database we also provide this information to the public free-of-charge. It now contains over 90 million patent documents from around the world.

...and improving access to it

Asia1 To help users exploit the full potential of this wealth of information we continuously develop and build on tools such as the EPO's free automatic translation service Patent Translate (available for 32 languages including Chinese, Japanese and Korean) which in 2014 saw 40 000 requests for translation into English every month. Another tool to improve access to this data is the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC), a highly efficient basis for retrieving relevant documents for a particular technology, irrespective of the country of origin of the patent application and language in which it has been filed. The CPC, developed by the EPO and the US Patent and Trademark Office and launched in 2013, is now on its way to becoming a global standard for refined patent classification. This is in addition to our other well-established services, such as the EPO's dedicated Asian patent information desk, staffed by experts fluent in the major Asian languages, aimed at helping external users find their way around documentation from Asia.

Co-operating with Asian patent offices

Asia5Success on all these projects depends very much on co-operation with our partner offices. In 2014 we worked closely with the Chinese and Korean patent offices to help them prepare to classify their documents using the CPC. And thanks to a new agreement with the Korean IP office in 2014, we started adding Korean legal status information to our worldwide legal status database for the first time. Similar arrangements already exist with Japan and China. With a view to improving our coverage of Asian prior art even further, the EPO signed an MoU with India in autumn 2014, paving the way for the inclusion of Indian patent and legal status data in the EPO's databases in the near future.  The EPO also signed a co-operation agreement with the patent offices of the ASEAN countries - a combined region of 616 million people.

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