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Measures that simplify patent processes for users will be implemented and underpinned by strategies aimed at maintaining the high standard of EPO products and services.
Efficient, high-quality searches depend upon comprehensive access to the latest documents on technological developments. This prior art, consisting of patent and non-patent literature (NPL), is increasing exponentially. Under Key Initiative 1, the EPO will continue to enrich the content of its databases and ensure their accuracy, with a special focus on the growing Asian documentation and standards.
The EPO is held in high regard as a provider of legally-robust patents. In order to retain this position, the Office plans to develop and implement several internal measures aimed at improving the quality of its products and services. This is not a task that will be conducted unilaterally, but rather with greater input from the Office's network of stakeholders.
For EPO users, the PACE programme and Early Certainty Initiative have helped to establish legal certainty more quickly. Furthermore, the Office is clearing its backlog and is expected to achieve a steady-state regime within three years. With more manageable stock, and an agile, faster patent grant process, the EPO is in a better position to expand the choices available to its applicants when it comes to the timing of the patent grant process.
The Strategic Plan includes several Key Initiatives that will support quality and improve timeliness but ultimately, it is the EPO’s staff that play the biggest role. Therefore, it is of strategic importance for the Office to facilitate knowledge transfer and more modern and collaborative working methods.
The EPO's annual results have shown a year-on-year production increase while external surveys prove that both quality and timelines have improved. These positive results have largely been achieved thanks to the diligence, commitment and professionalism of staff. If positive trends are to continue, the patent grant process needs to be simplified and streamlined. The EPO is currently assessing this procedure in order to identify short, medium and long-term measures that could help the move towards an electronic grant process.
While the Office is indeed moving towards a steady state regime, it is important to improve the management of remaining stocks and incoming files, and rebalance the workload appropriately. This dynamic business model will be driven by greater adaptability and flexibility among examiners and formalities officers.
As the EPO reduces its backlogs it will explore the option of developing innovative products and services. To achieve this, further consultation with member states will be needed to ensure that these new products and services are fair and beneficial for all users.