Towards a common understanding of quality
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The seventh meeting of the SACEPO Working Party on Quality (19-21 October), attended virtually by 75 members from across the world, has again shown the EPO's commitment to both quality and user engagement. The 3-day event involved an external assessment exercise with 24 Stakeholder Quality Assurance Panels (SQAPs). The initiative is part of the goal set out in the Strategic Plan (SP2023) to foster a better shared understanding of quality by comparing the perceptions of users and EPO quality management. The SQAP concept was first tested at the EPO back in October 2019, and the user feedback gathered during the inaugural 2019 panels have directly shaped the Quality Programme of the SP2023. It is the objective of the panels to build a collaborative and shared understanding of, and responsibility for, quality at the EPO.
The SQAPs covered the EPO's three technology sectors - Mobility and Mechatronics, Healthcare, Biotechnology and Chemistry, and Information Communications Technology - and were each led by two European patent attorneys nominated as "assessors" by the EPO, epi and BusinessEurope. Whereas the focus of the exercise in 2019 was on novelty (Art. 54 EPC) and added-subject matter (Art. 123 EPC), this year the 12 external assessors focussed on inventive step (Art. 56 EPC) and clarity (Art. 84 EPC). Based on detailed reports prepared by the assessors, SACEPO members convened in break-out workshops to critically analyse a series of European patents and discuss issues triggered by the files and areas for improvements.
The results of the lively discussions which took place during the workshops were summarised during the plenary session on the third day of the meeting. The participants welcomed the interactions in the SQAP sessions and expressed the wish to see this event repeated in future. SACEPO members were also given the opportunity to comment on the results of the EPO User Satisfaction Survey, the resulting action plan and the development of the SP2023 User Area pilot.
Consultations of the user community will continue this week with the autumn meeting of the SACEPO Working Party on Guidelines.