The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is a highly innovative and rapidly changing area. These technologies include computing and telecommunications and encompass new developments in emerging technologies, e.g. artificial intelligence (AI).
Since the 1980s, ICT has been a major driver of innovation. It led to both computers and internet access becoming commonplace in just about every home and workplace and later on, to the integration of computers into mobile phones.
More than a third of the 165 000 applications received by the EPO in 2017 concerned ICT directly or indirectly. The EPO recognises the growing importance of ICT to industry, society and the economy while believing that high-quality patents are critical to encouraging, promoting and protecting innovation in ICT. As such, the Office has created an ICT technical sector within the office, bringing together the EPO's examination competence and specialisation in telecommunications, computers and related areas.
The examiners have access to a world-class collection of patents and other technical records - over 1.3 billion - which includes standards documentation which is not readily accessible elsewhere. EPO examiners are therefore best placed to assess the alleged novelty of inventions described in patent applications.