Sustainability will be the focal point of the new Strategic Plan 2028, with the singular goal of establishing a more sustainable European Patent Organisation and patent system that can support the innovation ecosystem, economic growth, and competitiveness in Europe.
The EPO's Strategic Plan will outline our vision for the Office.
The public consultation run until 15 May 2023 and was open to all interested stakeholders, experts from the intellectual property and innovation system and members of the general public.
This year we celebrate 50 years of the European Patent Convention (EPC). The European Patent Organisation created by the EPC has become a success in a multitude of ways. We have earned a reputation for the high quality of our products and services, including legally robust patents that can help inventors bring their breakthroughs to market. Our comprehensive collection of patent information provides a global database of technologies, freely available to all, and reveals insights and trends in the world of innovation. The European Patent Office (EPO) has worked with partners from across Europe and around the world to tackle pressing issues, from the far-reaching impact of artificial intelligence to the exponential rise in prior art.
As a result of these achievements and many more, the attractiveness of the European patent system has continued to grow. In the course of SP2023 alone, the number of patent applications received by the EPO has risen by almost 11%. And, as another testament to the success of the European patent system, membership of the European Patent Organisation has grown from just 16 countries in 1977 to 39 member states today. Taking into account one further extension state and four validation states, a European patent can now become a national patent in up to 44 countries on the basis of a single patent application, and provide patent protection in markets with a combined total of some 700 million people.
Now, as we look ahead to the next five years, we must shape a patent system and a European Patent Office in a world that has changed fundamentally since the signing of the EPC 50 years ago. Ours is a world in which we must overcome challenges we thought had been relegated to history, such as conflict and pandemics, while also trying to grapple with problems such as climate change and environmental degradation, and set ourselves on the path to a brighter, more sustainable future.
Our habits, actions and decisions will all determine whether we are successful in overcoming these challenges. But innovation will also play a fundamental role in the development of solutions. New technologies will help us to mitigate the effect of climate change. New technologies will save lives. New technologies will strengthen our economies, creating growth and opportunity. Together with effective policy, innovation will help us to achieve the all-important United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, putting us on track to achieve a safer, smarter, more sustainable world.
At the EPO, we are at the centre of these efforts. The high-quality patents we grant enable inventors to attract investment and recoup the costs of research and development that bear technological fruit. At the same time, we publish these inventions, making them free to access for all. In doing so, we support innovators everywhere, by helping them to see where inventive steps have been made by their peers, and to build on the work of others - resulting in a continually advancing state-of-the-art and avoiding the duplication of efforts.
In our previous Strategic Plan (SP2023), we focused on five different goals to help us achieve these aims and fulfil our mission with greater success. We looked at how to become a more knowledgeable and empowered organisation, to implement a digital transformation for the benefit of our users, to offer the highest quality products and services and work with our partners to create a global patent system with impact, while also taking measures to enhance our sustainability by achieving sounder finances, more effective governance and transparency, as well as a reduced environmental footprint.
We believe that this plan has for the most part been a success. Overall, we achieved our vision of becoming a more agile, adaptable and sustainable organisation. As well as achieving our five clear goals, we were able to react quickly to the pandemic. We protected our colleagues, while ensuring business continuity, and provided high-quality products and services at a time when innovation was needed the most.
Now, as we look to the future, we believe that these same fundamental elements of SP2023 will remain integral to our success. They will all feature centrally in SP2028. But we will also adapt to the altered landscape in which we now find ourselves. For example, our people remain central, but the nature of our professional home has changed. The spaces in which we collaborate and communicate are now as much online as they are in physical buildings. This also has an impact on the tools we need to develop to work effectively with each other and with all our stakeholders.
But the greatest change is our focus. In SP2028 we will have only one goal: sustainability. Our people, our homes, our tools, our products and services, and the networks and partnerships we develop are the drivers that will contribute to a sustainable patent office, a more sustainable patent system and, ultimately, a more sustainable society. Sustainability is the North Star to which we will orientate ourselves. It is where we will find a better tomorrow. And all stakeholders are warmly invited to share their views on how we can get there together.