EPO Vice-President for the Patent Granting Process speaks to IAM

Steve Rowan emphasises users’ overwhelmingly positive feedback on the high-quality products and services of the European Patent Office (EPO).

IAM, a leading IP publication, has published an article following an interview with Steve Rowan, EPO Vice-President for the Patent Granting Process.

“The consistent message we get is that EPO quality is strong and improving,” said Mr. Rowan in the interview. “But we are always looking for areas where we can improve.” The article was published shortly after the EPO launched its Quality dashboard, which presents current and forthcoming key performance indicators (KPIs) that will enable everyone to follow the EPO’s progress in making continuous quality improvements.

Mr. Rowan also announced that the EPO's Quality Action Plan would soon be published, a document that had remained internal until this year. The publication will further inform the deepening dialogue with users that takes place through the long established Standing Advisory Committee (SACEPO), with user representatives from around the world, and more recent initiatives such as the regular Stakeholder Quality Assurance Panels (SQAPs). Mr. Rowan explained that this year’s SQAPs will examine refusals, as well as intermediate communication and search and written opinion.

As for complete and accurate searches, this is another area that VP1 said reflects the EPO’s high overall quality: “We see that in only 5% of cases, there is an incorrect assessment of novelty and inventive step. But we want to improve on that. Also, we see that prior art has been missed in about 4% of cases and we really want to make sure that we keep that as low as possible.”

On the scientists and engineers working at the EPO as patent examiners, of whom there are some 4 000, Mr. Rowan said: “We recruit the very best examiners. They are the most highly qualified technical experts in Europe. Then we put them through a really comprehensive programme of training.”