The setting up of the EPO represented a major step forward in the history of patents. Its reputation depends on all employees, regardless of nationality, working harmoniously together and giving of their best. But it is on the search, examination and opposition, more than anything else, that the EPO will be judged by the patent world.
Employees of the EPO work with colleagues who not only speak a different language but also come from a different patent background with different training. Some may also have had experience in their national patent office. It is therefore important to mention that all employees in the EPO are working under a common system as laid down in the EPC. The Guidelines will support them in applying the same standards.
One of the purposes of the Guidelines is also to make clear how the areas of responsibility are distributed among the different departments, e.g. the Receiving Section, the examining or opposition divisions, in order to harmonise the working processes and to avoid duplicate work.
It should not be forgotten that the reputation of the EPO depends not only on the quality of the work it provides but also on the timeliness with which it delivers its work products. The EPC imposes various time limits on the parties. The European patent system will be judged a success only when examiners and other employees also operate within reasonable time frames.
Finally, it should hardly need stating that all European applications and patents, regardless of their country of origin and the language in which they are written, receive equal treatment. An international patent system can be credible only if all trace of national bias is absent.