23 November 2017
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The EPO and China's State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) have renewed their co-operation by signing a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement at their annual heads of office meeting today in Zhengzhou.
EPO President Benoît Battistelli and SIPO Commissioner Shen Changyu underlined that this unique agreement reinforces a historic co-operation which goes back more than 30 years. It is the first and only agreement of such kind signed by both offices with other patent offices.
The comprehensive strategic partnership sets out the principles for co-operation in areas such as laws and policies, the patent granting process, user services and training. It is valid for an unlimited time, and will be complemented by annual work plans, such as the one for 2018 also signed today in Zhengzhou.
"The new strategic agreement signed today is a milestone in the history of our relations with China," said EPO President Battistelli. "Thanks to our co-operation, the European and Chinese patent granting systems now closely resemble each other, which greatly benefits innovators in both regions. The new agreement will allow us to explore the vast potential for even closer co-operation, to include new areas such as artificial intelligence and green technologies, and to continue to promote the efficient functioning of the global patent system".
EPO-SIPO relations date back to the signing of a first memorandum of understanding between the two offices in 1985, and have since contributed significantly to the development of the protection of patent rights in China, and to the strengthening of the patent system at international level.
One of the highlights of the EPO's President visit to China was a 50-minute high-level meeting with State Councillor Wang Yong. The State Councillor outlined the main challenges ahead for China with respect to intellectual property. He stressed the importance placed on IP by the Chinese government, in particular since the recent 19th National Congress, and noted that China's partnership with the EPO is very important for the development of the Chinese patent system. He acknowledged the leading role of the EPO in the quality of the global patent system.
In meetings with European and Chinese companies in Beijing, Mr Battistelli outlined the benefits of EPO-SIPO co-operation for their business, and presented recent developments at the EPO such as its Early Certainty approach, plans to launch optional postponement of examination at the request of applicants ("User Driven Early Certainty") and the forthcoming fee reductions. In all these discussions, the EPO President stressed that the main aim of both the EPO and SIPO is to maintain and even increase the quality of their patent-granting procedures. Industry participants praised the continuous positive results achieved by the EPO in the implementation of its quality and efficiency strategy, and encouraged the EPO to further develop its fruitful co-operation with the SIPO.
China is a leading country of origin for patent applications at the EPO (6th largest country of origin), and applications from China have grown rapidly in recent years (+25% in 2016). With Huawei (no. 2) and ZTE (no.22), two Chinese companies were among the most active patent filing companies at the EPO last year.