27 June 2022
On 23 June user representatives convened virtually within the framework of the Standing Advisory Committee before the EPO (SACEPO) for an exchange on the latest developments in the European patent system.
In his welcome address, President António Campinos highlighted the crucial role of SACEPO members in helping the EPO to improve the quality of its products and services. User feedback, he added, is particularly important when it comes to improving the EPO's audit compliance figures, especially on grants.
Key channels for user feedback are Stakeholder Quality Assurance Panels (SQAPs) which consist of groups of patent experts brought together to discuss EPO practices and suggest improvements. Commenting on this year's panels, the President said: "We want to take the SQAPs further, so we can - with your help - understand all stages of the patent granting process, covering the full life of the file".
During the meeting users were also given an update on the Unitary Patent package, due to be launched this winter. Detailed information is also available online in the updated Unitary Patent Guide and Frequently Asked Questions.
Digital transformation was another key topic on the agenda. Discussions covered the latest status of oral proceedings by video conference, as well as developments in IT co-operation, including the first EP validation and PCT e-filings via the new Front Office filing software for national patent offices. SACEPO members commended the EPO on its achievements in developing the Front Office tool.
SACEPO members also welcomed the key findings of the EPO's new study on the grace period, which analyses the impact of the strict novelty requirement under the EPC on applicants.
Lastly, the EPO introduced the new Ombuds Office set up in April 2022. Complementing the user service charter, the Ombuds Office aims to support external stakeholders who experience difficulties in their dealings with the Office and continuously enhance the user experience.
Christoph Ernst, Vice-President for Legal and International Affairs, thanked all SACEPO members for the inspiring and insightful exchange of views. Their open and frank input, he noted, will contribute to further raise the bar regarding all activities of the EPO.