Our bilateral co-operation activities with non-member states focus on long-term, strategic partnerships designed to make the global patent system more efficient and better suited to user needs.
Activities are aimed at ensuring high-quality, timely and cost-efficient patent examination for applicants, while avoiding duplication of work and maximising capacity of patent offices. There are three main co-operation schemes:
Since its early days, the EPO has been offering technical co-operation to developing and emerging economies. The objective has been to foster innovation and bilateral trade by establishing efficient national or regional patent systems closely aligned with the European patent system. Tools such as the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) and EPOQUE Net (the EPO's unique search tool “developed by patent examiners for patent examiners”) facilitate technical harmonisation and ensure that patent examiners and the public have access to the world’s growing prior art. Through Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot programmes, which the EPO has running with around a dozen partner offices worldwide, applicants can obtain patents more quickly and efficiently through a fast-track procedure. Due to impressive results achieved over more than 30 years, the EPO is today widely regarded as the world’s leading patent office when it comes to international co-operation in the field of patents. We have signed different co-operation agreements with more than 70 IP offices around the world (not including the EPO member states).
Reinforced co-operation builds on technical co-operation and seeks to establish an ambitious long-term partnership in strategic and technical areas of mutual interest. It supports the partner office both in developing the national patent system and providing services to domestic innovators in order to foster innovation and economic development. Furthermore, it is aimed at increasing efficiency and quality in the patent system by avoiding duplication of work by the partner office through the systematic re-use of EPO results. The EPO’s co-operation scheme of reinforced co-operation therefore contributes to the further integration and strengthening of the global patent system by extending the network of IP offices that rely on the re-use EPO results.
The validation system offers the most advanced and strategic co-operation model both for the EPO and the partner country. Validation agreements further improve the services offered to EPO applicants since patent protection can be obtained with the centralised EPO application procedure in up to 44 countries. The European patent system offers greater predictability regarding granted rights in these countries and the unique procedure reduces the administrative and financial burden for applicants. For the patent office in the validation country, the validation system represents an efficient way to streamline the workload of its patent examiners. As the validation results in a shift of PCT applications from the national route to the EURO-PCT route, the national office in the validation country has the possibility to focus its resources on direct support to national innovation. This effort is supported by a long term, sustained technical co-operation with the EPO, which is customised to the priorities of the national office.
The EPO’s bilateral co-operation policy in a nutshell: