21 April 2021
Over 2 100 participants from more than 900 companies registered for this year's User Day - the first digital edition, which took place on 19 and 20 April. As the event celebrated its 20th anniversary, EPO experts updated users on the latest developments in the Office's digital services, including during heavily attended breakout sessions on Online Filing 2.0, the EPO Mailbox, PCT filing, and oral proceedings by videoconference (VICO). There were also lively panel discussions on quality and timeliness, the Patent Index 2020 and the future of innovation, as well as new approaches to the areas of environmental sustainability and diversity & inclusion.
EPO President António Campinos opened the event by acknowledging the dedication of the Office's staff to delivering excellence in the face of unprecedented challenges:
"The pandemic may have changed many things - but certainly not the EPO's commitment to quality. In fact, we've even seen clear improvements over the last 12 months. We don't take that for granted of course. We will keep monitoring the measures we are taking, often together with users, to continuously improve the quality of our products and services."
This year's User Day highlighted once again the importance that the EPO attaches to engaging with users in as many contexts as possible and at every level, from operational matters to the bigger picture concerning patenting trends and questions of policy. With a range of EPO experts contributing, from key account managers to examiners and senior management, the proceedings complemented ongoing consultations with user representatives that take place in fora such as the Standing Committee before the EPO (SACEPO).
Overall, the event showed that, by strengthening and expanding the spectrum of online services, the EPO remains agile and responsive to users' needs in a rapidly evolving patent landscape. The growing recognition of the benefits of oral proceedings by VICO was also underlined.
Furthermore, users heard how the global pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the patent system's broader role of encouraging investment in research and development that help achieve major scientific and technological breakthroughs, including those required to fight infections such as COVID-19. The panel discussion on innovation in the race against the pandemic was joined by the father of modern-day vaccines Rino Rappuoli, who received the 2017 European Inventor Award in the category of Lifetime Achievement. EPO experts also presented the EPO platform Fighting coronavirus, which offers scientists and decision makers support in their pursuit of solutions to combat the virus by helping them identify the most important documents and innovations in the relevant technical fields.
Among the panellists discussing the Patent Index 2020 and the future of innovation were EPO Chief Economist Yann Ménière and Head of Governance and Coordination at the European Innovation Council Keith Sequeira. Here, users gained unique insights into the current importance of innovation in healthcare and digital technologies. The optimistic outlook with which the discussion concluded was maintained in the closing panel discussion on how the EPO's fostering of innovation, both internally and externally, contributes to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.