28 June 2021
One year after its initial launch, the EPO has updated and expanded the information in its "Fighting coronavirus" platform to reflect the rapidly-changing technology landscape in the struggle against the pandemic. The 35 search strategies added to the platform today reflect e.g. new interest in a wider range of existing medicines that could be suitable for re-purposing as COVID-19 therapeutics, and a wider variety of existing disinfectant technologies useful for making public spaces and transport safer. There are now over 300 search strategies in this free resource, an almost threefold increase from the original platform, all compiled by dozens of EPO experts.
As a world leader in supplying technical information, the EPO took the initiative last June to support researchers, businesses and decision-makers by sharing patent information on technologies which are useful in combating the novel coronavirus SAR-CoV-2 or in treating COVID-19. This expanding resource has been visited almost 50 000 times in the last 12 months, earning praise from many quarters. The platform now encompasses such diverse technologies as vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, healthcare informatics, building and vehicle design (e.g. to minimise transmission), smartphone apps as well as everyday items like masks and disinfectants. Innovation has flourished in many different areas, and the technical information in patent documents are often published nowhere else.
Because the volumes of potentially relevant patent documents can be bewildering (e.g. hundreds or even thousands of documents just for one type of vaccine), EPO patent examiners and data analysts created these ready-made search strategies to help researchers easily focus on the topics that are most relevant to their own work. These searches run in Espacenet, the EPO's free online database that contains over 120 million patent documents from over 100 countries.
The platform also includes videos and podcasts from seven inspirational scientists working in the fields of healthcare or satellite tracking (essential for contact tracing).
Patent applications are initially confidential and are typically published some 18 months after their first filing date. This means that many of the innovations conceived since the first wave struck early in 2020 are only beginning to appear in the patent databases now, with many more expected to be published in the coming months and years. However, a great many inventions which are relevant today were described in patent applications filed in response to the earlier SARS and MERS outbreaks (of 2002-2004 and 2012-2015 respectively). This is why so many documents already appear in the databases as they relate to these previous coronavirus epidemics.
For applicants who require a fast track patent procedure, regardless of the technology they are developing, the EPO offers accelerated prosecution of European patent applications.