24 January 2017
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The first meeting of the Standing Advisory Committee before the EPO (SACEPO) Working Party on Quality took place at the Office in Munich on 17 January. This new SACEPO sub-committee was created by a decision of the President to provide another channel to gather feedback on quality at the EPO based on the experiences of major user groups. It forms a part of the EPO's wider strategy to continuously improve its services, and the ways in which users and the Office communicate with each other.
"Securing quality is one of the most important elements of our work," said EPO Vice-President DG 2 Alberto Casado, who chaired the meeting. "Engaging with users about quality is of fundamental relevance, as it helps us to understand users' needs and concerns. This understanding guides our efforts towards continuous improvement and increased user satisfaction."
The meeting was attended by a diverse range of participants from industry, the patent profession and user organisations, including patent attorneys from various EPO member states, representatives of the European Patent Institute and Business Europe, as well as user groups from Japan, China, Korea and the United States.
The meeting was opened with an overview of the EPO's latest initiatives related to quality and an update on measures used to generate user feedback. This was followed by discussion on quality-related topics which will be followed up by various EPO departments and be fed into the Office's Quality Management System.
The participants appreciated the highly visible results from Early Certainty from Search and welcomed the opportunity to hear more from the Office about how it will implement Early Certainty from Examination and Opposition. EPO representatives stressed the Office's determination to continuously improve quality levels.
The EPO representatives also explained that applications covering different technical fields are normally examined by examining divisions composed of specialists from the relevant areas.
In reply to several of the points raised by participants, the EPO outlined new training initiatives which will complement the already intensive investments made for training examiners, for example, to enhance practice harmonisation. A particular focus was also given to EPO-PCT products and services and the further improvements that are being made.
The participants welcomed the EPO's readiness to listen to and respond to their views and concerns. For their part, the EPO representatives appreciated the feedback provided. The dialogue initiated on this occasion will be continued in the coming months and the next meeting of the SACEPO Working Party on Quality will be held in early 2018.
The Standing Advisory Committee before the European Patent Office (SACEPO) was set up in 1978 on the initiative of the first President of the EPO, Bob van Benthem, in order to give "interested circles" a say in the development of the European patent system. Members from industry and the patent profession as well as recognised experts in the field of industrial property law appointed ad personam by the President of the EPO meet in this forum every year, usually in June. SACEPO is consulted on all important issues affecting the development of the European patent system.