Key achievements: Goal 4
Goal 4 – Build European patent system and network with a global impact
- Maximise the impact of co-operation
European co-operation is at the core of Goal 4. In a competitive environment, the strength of the European patent system is key to ensuring the region remains a globally attractive market with a robust IP rights system. Close co-operation between the EPO and its members is beneficial not only for maintaining a strong European market, but crucially provides a high-quality and accessible patent system for users.
The European Patent Organisation is growing, a sign of a thriving network and an endorsement of the quality of the European patent system and its long-term sustainability. In 2022 the European Patent Organisation was delighted to welcome Montenegro as the 39th member state of the European Patent Convention. This means that as of 1 October 2022, European patent applications have included the designation of the new contracting state Montenegro. The EPO has now also taken over the functions of a PCT receiving office and acts as a PCT International Search and Examination Authority on behalf of Montenegro. In December 2022, the Administrative Council decided to extend an invitation to the Republic of Moldova to accede to the EPC. It is expected that, in due course, Moldova will become a contracting state to the EPC.
2022 also saw an increase in the bilateral co-operation agreements signed and implemented between national patent offices and the EPO. The increased engagement and involvement of national offices could be seen across the network, ensuring that projects were well on track for completion by the end of SP2023. These agreements are reviewed each year to allow national offices to tailor projects to their needs and to ensure implementation of Goal 4 is tracked and measured.
In addition, 2022 was the second year in which the new policy on working agreements on search co-operation applied. The success of this policy in supporting small entities to access the IP system was reflected in the growing numbers of search requests: in total, the EPO performed 28 947 national searches on behalf of the 15 offices that have signed a working agreement on search co-operation. This is an increase of 6% compared to 2021. Moreover, a total of 2 232 search fee reductions were granted under the small entities support scheme, which is 20% more than in 2021. Austria became the 16th contracting state to sign a working agreement on search co-operation in December 2022, following approval from the Administrative Council for Austria and Portugal to join the project in June.
At the heart of promoting the European patent system are the joint outreach efforts to foster innovation. In particular in 2022 significant efforts were made to prepare for the launch of the Unitary Patent system. Working hand-in-hand with national patent offices (NPOs), the EPO shared information and promotional materials on the Unitary Patent. Financial support for translating these materials into national languages was offered to ensure maximum spread and dissemination of information to users and patent professionals across the network. Joint outreach events are another communication channel that ensures a direct dialogue with different target groups and 2022 saw a surge of interest from member states in organising them. A number of these events focused on the Unitary Patent and a total of six were supported by the EPO either financially or with expertise (i.e. the provision of speakers). Further efforts were made on the technical level, with platforms for EPO and NPO examiners to discuss patenting procedures organised with four offices in 2022.
Figure 31 – EPO President delivers a keynote speech at the 9th Annual IPR Conference in Copenhagen, held by the Danish Patent and Trademark Office
An important forum for the European Patent Network (EPN) in 2022 was the 16th Annual Meeting on Co-operation in May. The high level of participation from member states allowed for a meaningful review of accomplishments of the second year under the co-operation framework and to collect feedback on flagship initiatives such as the EPO Patent and Technology Observatory, the Mobility Package, and the certification for European paralegal and administrators (EPAC).
Another milestone in 2022 was the creation of the EPN Dialogue, as part of the EPN responsive network co-operation initiative. This forum was an important step for the EPN, ensuring that in times of crisis the network can react in a responsive and co-ordinated way. In this spirit the EPO called for the 1st EPN Dialogue meeting in April 2022 to co-ordinate a response to the war in Ukraine. The meeting was attended by 38 nominated experts from member states' national offices. The swift arrangement and high level of engagement ensured the EPN could rapidly agree on how best to support the Ukrainian patent office and Ukrainian applicants. It also provided a platform to share the measures, and their impact, taken by member states against Russian and Belarusian individuals and entities in response to Russian aggression.
Making best use of existing digital tools, member states agreed on the establishment of the EPN Online Forum Ukraine to keep the EPN informed and up to date. This digital platform was integrated into the Single Access Portal and designed to centralise and disseminate evidence-based public information on measures taken in support of Ukraine.
The importance of close dialogue in 2022 was also visible in the establishment of a further platform to support the smooth implementation of the Unitary Patent. The Unitary Patent exchange platform provided a digital forum for the centralisation and distribution of documents and technical specifications. By bringing together member states in a continuous and open exchange, the platform helped push forward implementation by reducing differences, identifying issues, and providing collective solutions. To focus discussion and drive progress forward, the forum was divided into five key areas of implementation: IT, legal, financial, communication and training, and procedural and operational.
Consideration was also given to the level of support necessary to accelerate initiatives such as the EPO's use of cloud computing technology in the new and improved Search tool and the implementation of the Front Office project and to facilitate the early uptake of the Unitary Patent.
A further avenue to bolster the EPN was the establishment in 2022 of the seconded national experts (SNEs) scheme, which will offer employees of national offices and other organisations who have expertise in a particular field the opportunity to work at the EPO for a defined period. This will allow up to 70 external experts at any given time to be temporarily seconded to the Office based on agreements with other public administrations, institutions, or intergovernmental organisations. The aim is to offer opportunities for a learning experience and create a continuous exchange of knowledge, skills and expertise. As such, it also reinforces the EPO's commitment to supporting professional mobility.
Following the approval of the Administrative Council in June 2022, the Office launched the first round of publications for SNEs in January 2023, targeting initially the national offices of our member states. We are expecting the first batch of around 22 SNEs to join the Office in the second semester of 2023.
- Convergence of practice
The convergence programme is one of the pillars of the Office's strategic plan and aims at reducing the complexity of the existing European patent system – where diverging practices between national offices and the EPO sometimes result in inefficiencies and extra costs for companies and inventors seeking patent protection in Europe. Work on this programme has once again been pursued by the national offices and the EPO in 2022. Working Groups 5 and 6 ("Claim drafting and structure" and "Examination practice for computer-implemented inventions and artificial intelligence") managed to conclude their work by adopting recommendations for a common practice. The Committee on Patent Law then gave a unanimous favourable opinion on these two recommendations and the Administrative Council subsequently approved them in March 2023.
Given the recognised benefits and the positive feedback from contracting states and users, the Administrative Council decided to continue this successful exercise with six new convergence topics.
This paved the way to the start of the new work cycle at the beginning of 2023, with the setting up of two new Working Groups dealing with the first pair of topics "Allowable features in drawings" and "Issuing and accepting electronic priority documents".
The Council also approved WIPO's request to join the Working Groups as observer, in addition to the representatives of epi and BusinessEurope, who have been participating since 2021.
- IT Co-operation
By the end of 2022, the IT Co-operation programme had substantially delivered on its planned scope.
The focus remained on the Front Office project, where the work with pilot offices and on core functionalities progressed well in 2022. Filing of national patents, subsequent actions, supplementary protection certificates, ePCT and EP 1001 were all embedded in the Front Office and implemented in Spain and Lithuania, which had jointly received over 100 filings by the end of the year. Both Greece and North Macedonia had begun their implementation projects, and a further six countries were committed to implementing the project in 2023.
The Data Quality project completed the development of automated web interface routes to support the exchange of high-quality patent data, whether for prior art or search report work, and substantial progress was made in extending the patent collections available.
The third release of the web-based SEARCH system stemming from ANSERA was made available to national offices in member states, including extensive non-patent literature for the first time. By the end of 2022, almost 200 examiners in 19 countries were participating in the pilot phase, providing valuable feedback. The system was fit to replace EPOQUENET in some 75% of offices by December, though development was ongoing. The tool was deployed onto a high-performance, high-availability, cloud platform meeting the latest security standards enabling greater efficiency and scalability. This technology enables the tool to be made available more rapidly than its predecessor.
Single Access Portal is the one-stop shop covering all digital interactions with our partner offices. In 2022 it was launched and continued to evolve with new features, including a dedicated site for SACEPO, a PATLIB module and the National Offices Service Desk to enable NPOs to contact the EPO and its helpdesks. With the new features, the portal replaced the National Office Centre.
Figure 32 – Single Access Portal
The MICADO II pilot was launched in December as part of central hub for EPN collaboration, where detailed documentation on IT co-operation projects can be consulted, posted, and exchanged. The new MICADO for accessing the documents of the EPO's Administrative Council also entered the pilot phase with some delegations, and a full roll-out of the service is scheduled for 2023.
The EPO is continuing to promote the use of CPC worldwide and in particular in our member states. The external classification portal was made available via the Single Access Portal and aims to offer a hub for cooperation on classification.
Information security and cloud solutions are a core part of the EPO's work in IT co-operation. An information security working group was launched in 2022 to communicate on measures to manage services in the cloud securely.
- Unitary Patent package
For several years, the Unitary Patent package implementation works have been underway and in 2022 reached the final stage.
On 18 January 2022, Austria deposited its ratification instrument of the Protocol on Provisional Application of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC), triggering the start of the provisional application phase and the final implementation phase of the Unitary Patent package.
As a consequence, participating members states met three times in the framework of the Select Committee to update and finalise the legal and financial framework for the start of the Unitary Patent.
Several workshops of the Communication Correspondents Network successfully took place to exchange views among communication experts of the national offices, the UPC, the European Commission (EC), and the EPO on communication-related aspects of the Unitary Patent package. The EPO has also updated its widely used communication products related to the Unitary Patent package, including its webpage, the Unitary Patent guide, and PowerPoint presentations, and made available on its webpage several webinars on the Unitary Patent and interviews with UPC experts.
Since 1 September 2022, the EPO has carried out systematic top-up searches at the final stage of examination to inform applicants about any earlier national rights in the EPC contracting states found to be of prima facie relevance. First results show that in the vast majority of all cases no such national rights could be found.
On 21 October 2022 the President delivered an opening address during the Venice Judges' Forum, elaborating on the preparations underway for the imminent arrival of the Unitary Patent and UPC.
On 17 November 2022 a high-level curtain raiser conference on the Unitary Patent system took place in Brussels. The conference was attended by more than 1 000 participants. At that event, the EPO President and the President of the UPC's Court of Appeal Klaus Grabinski signed an agreement providing notably for the exchange of data between the European Patent Register and the UPC's Register and for support from the EPO for the UPC's training framework.
Figure 33 – Conference on the Unitary Patent system in Brussels; EPO President António Campinos and President of the UPC's Court of Appeal Klaus Grabinski signing agreement on data exchange
The efforts made in 2022 are now bearing fruit, as can be seen from the milestones in 2023. First, since 1 January 2023 applicants can file early request for unitary effect and request a delay in issuing the decision to grant a European patent. In the first four months of 2023, more than 5 000 such requests were filed with the EPO. These transitional measures will contribute to the early uptake of the Unitary Patent.
Second, due to the impressive progress in the final implementation works of the UPC, Germany deposited the ratification instrument related to the UPC Agreement on 17 February 2023. The Agreement will hence enter into force on 1 June 2023, which is also the date of the start of operations of the new Unitary Patent scheme.
Finally, on 22 February 2023 the working arrangement between the EC and the EPO regarding the unitary patent under Article 14 Regulation (EU) No 1257/2012 was concluded. The agreement will strengthen the cooperation between the two institutions.
- Define and prioritise co-operation activities
An important aspect of co-operation is the efficient use of resources. By building closer ties with other European institutions, the EPO is better able to identify opportunities for joint activities and common practices that unlock synergies or avoid the duplication of efforts.
Early in 2022, a bi-annual EPO-EUIPO work plan 2022-2023 was signed, covering a range of co-operation activities in the area of training, exchange of information and practices, in co-operation within the communication correspondents' network and the Pan-European SEAL programme.
The EPO and the EC agreed on the terms of the working arrangement implementing enhanced co-operation in the creation of unitary patent protection. The agreement aims to establish a close co-operation in particular on the issue of renewal fees and their impact on the budget of the European Patent Organisation.
The EPO and the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMA) carried out a pilot activity in which EPO experts provide a non-binding opinion on the technological novelty, inventive merit, and proposed future IP strategy of EIC transition proposals. The pilot initiative aims to leverage the EPO's expertise and unique position in the European innovation ecosystem.
The EPO and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 28 April 2022, followed by a first Annual Working Plan in May. The agreement aims at supporting innovators and entrepreneurs in turning their ideas into products with the broader objective of increasing patent valorisation and commercialisation in Europe.
The EPO and the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO) prolonged their cooperation arrangement for a further five years.
- Broaden the European patent system and network impact
Expanded network coverage
For the EPO to maintain its position as a key player in IP, it must continuously – and sustainably – reinforce its global impact and the reach of its network. By the end of 2022, the Office operated a total of 85 international co-operation agreements, including four validation agreements and 12 reinforced partnership (RP) agreements. In addition to the 44 countries in which EPO patents can be validated, there are an additional 42 countries where, through a RP or Patent Prosecution Highway agreement, corresponding EPO search and examination results are re-used in the national or regional phase.
The geographical coverage KPI, which measures the total population reached by EPO products, grew to 2.12 billion, a 5% increase compared to the previous year (2.022 billion). This is almost a quarter of the world's population.
Figure 34 – KPI measuring geographical coverage of the European patent system
The EPO continued its support to all four validation offices, by enhancing their examination capacity as well as providing train-the-trainers schemes to IP operators.
A key instrument is the use of the validation package – a budget aimed at modernising the infrastructure of the offices and at supporting investments in the field of IT, notably in Morocco and Tunisia. This enables the delivery of state-of-the art services to users and optimises interoperability between IP offices, in turn fostering sustainability inside the global patent system.
The validation agreement with Cambodia reached its fifth anniversary in January 2022 and was automatically extended. Concerning the State Agency on Intellectual Property of the Republic of Moldova (AGEPI), measures now aim at preparing for Moldova's accession to the EPC, a process on which co-operation activities will focus over the next months.
Progress also continued toward a possible validation agreement with the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI). Co-operation activities with OAPI are detailed under "Focus on Africa", below.
Our RP agreements enable partner offices to enhance and expedite the processing of subsequent applications through the re-use of EPO work results in their patent grant processes. In 2022 the participating offices reported a total of 32 121 re-use cases, bringing the total since the launch of the programme in 2021 to 131 148.
In 2022, the Office entered into RP agreements with Peru and Ukraine; support has been intensified progressively. In terms of regular re-use of EPO work results, the co-operation agreements with Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) are now fully operational. The implementation of the re-use process has commenced with the IP offices of Saudi Arabia, Peru, and Colombia.
In the scope of the RP agreement with ARIPO, the two institutions launched the Regional Patent Examination Training programme (ARPET). This programme enhances the competencies of examiners in ARIPO Member States and Observer States Angola and Ethiopia.
EPO as International Search Authority for China
In December 2020, the EPO and the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) launched a two-year pilot to enable nationals and residents of the People's Republic of China to select the EPO as their International Searching Authority (ISA) for applications filed in English under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). By the end of 2022, over 300 companies had participated, submitting a total of around 2 000 files. A one-year extension of the pilot up until December 2023 has been agreed between both Offices and discussions will be pursued in 2023 to further extend this pilot. In terms of digital notification, progress is expected in 2023 with the launch of the new PCT Link service, which will support international users, including from China, in their interactions with the EPO as ISA and International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA).
Focus on Africa
With its enormous potential for industrial development and IP, the African continent deserves a special place in the Office's co-operation strategy.
In March 2022, the EPO President and the Director-General of ARIPO launched the University IP Outreach Training Programme by setting an initial pilot with 25 universities from ARIPO member states and Angola, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. The pilot focused on establishing a basic understanding of IP and on training in the use of search tools. With time, the programme will be rolled out to more universities, including those from Portuguese-speaking African countries.
In December 2022, the EPO President visited South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Cameroon. In South Africa, he met with local patent attorneys to discuss co-operation between the EPO and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), the latest developments regarding the Unitary Patent and the pilot conducted with the national office on substantive search and examination procedure.
In Zimbabwe, the EPO President and the Director-General of ARIPO jointly opened a seminar on the future of the Knowledge Transfer to Africa initiative and the extension of PATLIB to the continent, further described under "Improve access to patent knowledge" below.
Figure 35 – Study visit for OAPI examiners at the EPO
In Cameroon, the President spoke at the 62nd regular session of the Administrative Council of OAPI and discussed a potential Validation Agreement with its members. With the candidate organisation pursuing the introduction of search and substantive examination procedures, the Office is training OAPI examiners in advanced patent examination.
On 1 March 2022, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EPO froze all co-operation activities with the patent office of the Federation of Russia as well as the Eurasian Patent Organisation (EAPO). As a result, as of 17 May 2022 the EPO stopped receiving new incoming patent publication data from Russia and the EAPO in its prior-art databases, and informed EPOQUE Net users about the effects on data coverage.
Technical co-operation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) offices proceeded with the completion of the ASEAN Common Guidelines for Patent Examination, which were approved and adopted by the ASEAN Working Group on IP co-operation in December 2022.
In the context of regional IP activities, the Office contributed to the IP Key projects in the ASEAN region and in Latin America. Virtual workshops took place on EPO examination practice, including specific technical areas, such as CII and AI.
The EPO also participated in the EuroClima+ programme of the European Union by taking part in a three-day capacity building event on green technologies for patent examiners in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The EPO is spearheading an initiative to establish a sustainable platform to ensure that CPLP countries co-operate systematically and in a coordinated manner on IP matters.
Also in 2022, the EPO together with WIPO organised a training session for the national institutes of industrial property of Brazil (INPI) and Chile (INAPI) on the PCT. More than 150 examiners were trained in the ISA/IPEA responsibilities on the updated PCT International Search and Preliminary Examination Guidelines and practice. The co-operation with WIPO was renewed with the signature of a new annual work plan comprising activities in the area of the PCT system, data exchange, classification, automation procedures and patent information. Most of these activities are progressing according to plan and delivering benefits which further develop the international patent system.
The EPO also enhanced its technical cooperation with the USPTO across a wide variety of areas, exchanging best practices in training, quality management, and the use of AI for classification and other digital transformation endeavours.
During 2022, Peru, Belgium, Monaco, Italy, and Luxembourg adopted the CPC as their internal classification system, bringing the total to 37 offices. A new EPO-CNIPA CPC MoU and work plan were signed, and the Polish patent office started exchanging CPC data with the EPO. Having signed an agreement with the EPO the previous year, OMPIC began to put the classification system in place to its full extent. Moreover, intense discussions between EPO experts and their USPTO counterparts have led to harmonisation of classification practice between the EPO and USPTO in 258 CPC subclasses, which represents 40% of the entire CPC classification scheme.
In addition, the EPO was actively involved in revision of both the CPC and IPC schemes in conjunction with our partners in the IP5 and IPC: 195 CPC revision projects were published and four releases of the CPC scheme took place in 2022. Our participation in IP5 and IPC revision activities resulted in 52 IPC revision and maintenance projects being adopted for the 2023 edition of the IPC scheme (IPC2023.01).
Several CPC trainings and workshops were performed throughout the year, allowing for direct online interaction between EPO experts and examiners of CPC offices. CPC was introduced for EP publications in January 2022. Inputs received from usability testing and CPC Working Group sessions resulted in the creation of a classification portal suited for their needs: the External Classification Portal, launched within the Single Access Portal, with its two first services: the contact information service and CPC reclassification service. A series of additional services were developed in 2022 (such as CPC coverage reports and widget, an AI-powered CPC text categoriser, and CPC News) and were tested by CPC Working Group members. A quality monitoring service as well as a CPC statistical mapping service between the CPC, FI and IPC systems will complement the offer of the External Classification Portal in 2023.
The Office stepped up its efforts in multilateral co-operation with the IP5 and the Trilateral Offices (the EPO, the JPO, and the USPTO). These aim to promote technical and procedural convergence and drive co-ordinated responses to global challenges in IP.
In June 2022, the EPO hosted the annual IP5 high-level events, which took place virtually. Progress was celebrated, for instance on the implementation of a Global Alerting system of patent prosecution changes, on the launch of new projects in the scope of the IP5 NET/AI Roadmap, and in formalising the so-called IP5 safe format of allowable features in drawings among the IP5 Offices.
The IP5 Heads of Office also met with the representatives of the IP5 Industry, at a separate fully digital event which focussed on the role of IP in promoting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting marked ten years of working together with IP5 Industry, showcasing the accomplishments of the IP5 Co-operation and the value of continued exchanges with the users.
In 2022 the Trilateral Offices celebrated 40 years of co-operation with a conference organised by the USPTO on the theme of enhancing access to the innovation ecosystem for SMEs to drive economic growth. The Trilateral Offices agreed to pursue the simplification and streamlining processes to improve efficiency and reduce costs for all innovators, particularly smaller enterprises, micro-entities, and start-ups.
Figure 36 – Trilateral alliance celebrates 40 years of co-operation: WIPO Deputy Director General Lisa Jorgenson, EPO President António Campinos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Kathi Vidal, JPO Commissioner HAMANO Koichi
- Constant dialogue with the users
Regular input from user associations and iterative exchanges with practitioners from both industry and the patent profession remain indispensable to ensure progress towards fulfilling our quality aspirations as described under Goal 3.
In 2022, the Office held 15 bilateral meetings with user associations both in Europe and abroad, including the epi, BusinessEurope, the Associacion Intellectuelle pour la Protection de la Propriété Intellectuelle (AIPPI), the IP5 and Trilateral Industry groups, and numerous other leading national and international associations.
User consultations within the SACEPO framework continued throughout 2022, with a total of nine meetings of its main body and the dedicated SACEPO Working Parties. Emphasis is increasingly placed on dialogue and interaction with user representatives as well as on actions taken by the EPO in response to input from users.
Figure 37 – Meeting with AIPPI in Munich
- Strengthening the PCT
Multiple initiatives are ongoing to improve the EPO's services and products under the PCT for the benefit of both applicants and offices, with much progress in 2022.
Digitisation of PCT data flows between WIPO and the EPO saw the completion of the main six flows which, altogether, represent two thirds of the total volume of PCT data exchanged between the two offices. The remainder will be dealt with at a later stage.
The PCT fee transfer service streamlines the collection and transfer of international search fees from the receiving offices to the ISA via WIPO. The service has been gradually extended to most PCT receiving offices since 2016 and covered over 98% of all search fees due to the EPO by the end of 2022.
During 2022, the EPO-led Task Force on PCT Minimum Documentation, which includes experts from most ISAs, presented a consolidated package of changes aiming to update the scope and requirements of what must be looked at by the authorities when performing the international search. The proposed Rule changes were endorsed by the PCT Working Group and will be presented for adoption by the PCT Assembly in July 2023.
The IP5 Pilot Group on Collaborative Search & Examination worked intensively on the preparation of the final pilot report to the IP5 Heads of Offices, including the collection of remaining data from all five national phases. After a thorough evaluation, the Pilot Group recommended not to implement this scheme – for the time being and in its present form – into the PCT framework.
- Modernisation of the European Patent Academy
The second online European Qualifying Examination (EQE) took place in March with a battery of improved functions that gained great acceptance by candidates: about 2 500 candidates took papers, and 885 candidates completed the EQE and could reinforce the profession. The EQE reform process, which aims at revising the original concept to better meet the demands of the profession and industry, continued with six new modules and nine sample papers, discussed in a widespread consultation for full transparency. As the next step, the reform will be tabled in the Administrative Council.
2022 saw the introduction of the first ever European Patent Administration Certification (EPAC) examination. This was a success in terms of expansion of the geographical outreach of the European patent system: it attracted 510 candidates from 47 nationalities, located in 33 countries in Europe and beyond. The responses from interested circles were very positive: the examination was seen as high-level and challenging. The smooth launch of EPAC opens up an opportunity to make use of the EPO certification platform for further certifications.
Figure 38 – EPAC dedicated training on e-learning centre of the European Patent Academy
The European Patent Academy has reached users from almost all countries. In 2022, it set up 2 230 hours of training in patent granting, technology transfer, and patent litigation, and the number of participants in training stood at 23 556, with 17 359 further regular user accounts in the eLearning centre. The overall satisfaction level reported by users is already higher in digital format than in pre-pandemic times.
The design of training has been made participatory. A member states working group of 37 experts in education coming from 19 national offices met in May and June 2022 under the new structures of the Academy. The goal was to collect the training needs for staff of NPOs for 2023 and co-create the Academy training catalogue.
During 2022, the Academy offered training for the Offices participating in the pilot for the new Search tool based on ANSERA, with over 100 participants. Alongside this course, CPC training for national offices delivered 16 new technical-field specific recordings. Other priority thematic areas of training have been the unitary patent and UPC, training for the PATLIB network, CII, and oral proceedings by VICO.
The Academic Research Programme call, fostering collaborative research and expanding the IP research network, granted five awards over a period of three years and research projects started in 2022. 32 research scheme proposals were received to cover these two streams. Relying on the analysis of a team of peer reviewers, a scientific committee integrating experts from all the DGs of the Office makes recommendations for the final selection of projects.
Three initiatives stand out when it comes to modularity: the Modular Intellectual Property Education Framework, the Course Builder, and the patentability and patent proceedings for patent litigation experts. The Modular Intellectual Property Education Framework, aiming at the integration of Academy content in university programmes, was completed in 2022. Two high-quality 75-hour courses mixing synchronous and asynchronous delivery are ready to be integrated in official masters and PhD programmes of science, technology, law, and economics schools, starting in March 2023.
The Academy has started developing EPO/university co-labelled certificates. The aim of this initiative is to increase the impact, ease of diffusion, and inclusion of developed content in official educational programmes. The content will be included in official programmes and made freely available worldwide.
Under SP2023 we have developed the first iteration of a new, central IP catalogue of training activities at a European level, collecting upcoming learning opportunities from the EPO, EUIPO, and participating NPOs. With a strong focus on the user journey, the e-knowledge portal integrates search, authentication, registration, and consumption of IP training. It will be embedded in the new epo.org website and launched in 2023.
Similarly, a prototype has been designed and developed to concentrate all EPO training materials on a single document repository. It will be interlinked via the Single Access Portal with the training offered to national offices. "Patent enforcement in Europe", a comparison tool for national patent enforcement practices across Europe, was released in a new interactive digital format. The tool enables users to search and compare specific patent enforcement measures and procedures between different EPO contracting states.
- Improve access to patent knowledge
Through the PATLIB 2.0 project, the EPO intends to promote the development of the patent information (PATLIB) centres, encouraging them to expand their knowledge and capabilities, particularly in technology transfer. By supporting the PATLIB centres in their endeavours, the Office provides a growing platform to enhance the effectiveness of the patent system and champions its commitment to enhancing the economic and societal value of patents.
As in previous years, the landmark event for the network was the organisation of a PATLIB conference in co-operation with the European Commission. The 2022 edition of the conference attracted 1 332 registrations from 83 countries.
Figure 39 – PATLIB2022
Other achievements of the PATLIB 2.0 project during 2022 include an improved public online directory of PATLIB centres, and the introduction of digital service packages to expand the learning opportunities for the centres.
In line with the Office's increased focus on the region, a proof-of-concept was also concluded for the new Knowledge Transfer to Africa initiative. This initiative aims to transfer IP-specific knowledge from the PATLIB network to African universities, the ultimate objective being to strengthen the capabilities of the participating African institutions and ensure they can run services independently. 17 universities in 10 African countries were nominated by the regional and national patent offices to participate in the first phase of the initiative, and 16 members of the PATLIB expert network selected to support the mentoring, training, and twinning activities.
Patent information tools and services
An indispensable tool for IP professionals, the European Patent Register is the most complete and up-to-date source of publicly available procedural information on European patent applications as they pass through each stage of the granting process.
In 2022, the Register saw several improvements, including downloadable sequence listings and adaptations to reflect Montenegro's accession. In terms of post-grant information, Hungary has been integrated in the Federated Register service, which now covers 34 national offices. San Marino became the 38th state to connect its own national register via deep linking.
In preparation for the launch of the Unitary Patent, a new Unitary Patent Register has been developed along with the technical implementations of all necessary data and associated tools and services.
Technology platforms on Espacenet
With its Espacenet database, the EPO hosts the largest collection of patent literature in the world, which it makes available not only to examiners but also to inventors, researchers, and the general public. As part of its mission, the Office is fully committed to helping users and society benefit from the EPO's patent information products and services. An important element of this commitment – reflected also under the societal impact theme of Goal 5 – is to facilitate targeted access to curated data of high social relevance.
With this in mind, the Office introduced a new "Clean energy" platform into Espacenet, with datasets spanning three technology fields and more than 50 related search concepts. Similarly, the previously launched "Fighting coronavirus" platform was expanded to cover four technology fields and some 350 search concepts; it now also includes video interviews with leading scientists in vaccine research, diagnostics, and therapeutics.
Patent knowledge news and events
In order to better disseminate patent knowledge to practitioners, the Office doubled down on its online presence.
A new, fully digital Patent Knowledge Week event attracted more than 1 650 registrations. It covered a wide range of topics including the unitary patent, patent knowledge for SMEs and start-ups, patent analytics and visualisation, the role of patents in sustainable development, and an overview of the EPO's support services for different types of users.
Frequent sharing of online content was central to the dissemination approach: in 2022 we published 58 articles in Patent Knowledge News, generating close to 74 000 total views, and released 10 new Patent Knowledge Nuggets videos on the EPO's YouTube channel, sharing insights on Espacenet, the Unitary Patent in the Register, patent analytics, and our patent insight reports.
Figure 40 – Patent Knowledge Week – 4 to 7 October 2022
- Review of EPO data policy
A revised data policy document developed in consultation with the member states was welcomed first by the TOSC members and, following the support of this board, by the delegations of the Administrative Council in December where it was unanimously approved.
By developing the policy in close liaison with stakeholders, and anchoring it in the broader societal context, the EPO aims to foster its role as a key distributor of comprehensive and accessible high-quality patent data, facilitating access to non-patent literature (NPL), and improving the performance and accessibility of examiner search tools.
The data policy defines clear rules for the acquisition of worldwide patent and NPL data, access to this data through the common prior-art search tool, and dissemination to end users – including specific conditions for EP and non-EP patent data.
Acquisition and dissemination processes have been set up such that the EPO and the national offices can continue to make this data available to the public under patent information policies and programmes, either directly or via patent information centres and libraries. This will ensure barrier-free public access to the information contained in patent documents, especially for SMEs, universities and research centres, industry, and bodies involved in filing patent applications, granting patents, and disseminating patent information.
With the policy now in place, the next step will be the development of a follow-up proposal for a pricing policy in close consultation with the stakeholders.