15 June 2011
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The EPO and its member states met in Bratislava on 14/15 June to discuss how to bring co-operation forward in a number of areas in order to improve the quality and efficiency of the European patent system, and thus better serve industry. This comes at a time when the European Union is reviewing its strategy on intellectual property rights, with the introduction of a unitary patent and litigation system as its main priorities, and seeking to improve the overall environment for innovation.
Opening the meeting, EPO President Benoît Battistelli highlighted that closer co-operation between the EPO and its member states is crucial to improving the IP landscape in Europe: "This is an exciting time, with Europe moving forward on IP issues, and we need to review the way we work together with the national patent offices to ensure the success of these efforts and provide a better service to European industry."
This year's co-operation meeting, hosted by the Slovak Republic's Industrial Property Office, is expected to usher in a new era of co-operation between the EPO and its member states. The meeting will look at three main topics that are at the heart of co-operation between the EPO and Europe's national patent offices: training; IP awareness and patent information; IT tools, services and standards.
"The Organisation has 38 member states, seven of which have joined since 2007," said EPO Vice-President for International Affairs, Raimund Lutz. "The EPO's co-operation policy needs to be reviewed and adapted to meet the challenges of the growing number of members, and their diversity. Our strategy needs to be made more flexible to take into account the individual needs of individual countries," he said.
One example of co-operation which will benefit European business is a joint project between the EPO and the national patent offices on machine translation covering 28 European languages. This will provide a major source of technical information for companies and inventors in Europe in their own language.
"The goal is to break down language barriers and make patent information accessible to users of the patent system, especially to SMEs; and to reduce translation costs, thus making European companies competitive in global markets," said President Battistelli. The project will build on a partnership agreement signed between the EPO and Google in March on the machine translation of patents covering 28 European languages plus Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian.
The machine translation programme will also play an important role for the planned unitary patent, which is currently being discussed in the European institutions, and which aims to simplify procedures and cut the costs of protecting inventions in Europe.
In his opening remarks at the conference, Mr Tomáš Kakula, on behalf of Mr Ivan Štefanec, Member of Parliament of the Slovak Republic and Chairman of its Committee on European Affairs, greeted progress on the unitary patent: "We cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to the users' call for an affordable and globally competitive EU-wide patent system," he said.
"The introduction of the unitary patent system comes at the right time for the Slovak Republic. After years of boosting our economy through foreign investments in production-line labour, we are urgently striving to re-start more 'creative' economic sectors."