The EPO held its inaugural Patent Knowledge Week event from 2-5 November, with multiple tracks spread over the four days. Compared with the previous Patent Information Conference, the new format was a radical change of direction designed to democratise patent knowledge by opening it up to new audiences. We achieved this by combining a main track for experts with dedicated tracks for SMEs, patent attorneys and IP professionals, PATLIB centres and universities, and one on the use of patent data from Asia. The event attracted more than 2 200 participants from over 90 different countries. In this article we will report on some of the highlights of the various tracks.
The main track ran over the first three days and involved numerous speakers from the EPO and industry. One of this track's highlights was the industry perspective on patent knowledge provided by Thorsten Zank, president of the PDG. Mr Zank detailed how "patent information had awoken from its slumber", summarising the challenges facing industry with the transition from the use of patent information to the generation of patent knowledge. These included a dramatic increase in publicly available information, increasingly complex client requests and the need to upskill IP staff to handle diverse use cases. He outlined the PDG's role in ensuring industry was capable of generating knowledge from patent information to use in business decisions. The main track's content received very positive feedback from participants, with special praise for the "great lineup of interesting and useful lectures".
The SME track, which attracted over 400 participants, focused on why patent knowledge is important for the economy and showcased successful SMEs that are using the patent system effectively. Other topics discussed included identifying technological trends, the usefulness of the upcoming unitary patent and an analysis of which patent knowledge services are best kept in-house and which are best outsourced. A survey was carried out during the track, which revealed that SMEs use patent information most often to perform prior-art searches, followed by FTO searches and competitor tracking. The biggest barriers preventing SMEs from making effective use of patent information were identified as being the difficulty in deriving knowledge from the data and a lack of resources or skills. Participants were able to use a Q&A tool to give their feedback, which included appreciation of the "very good explanations of this difficult subject".
With more than 260 participants, the patent attorney track focused on how patent knowledge can add value to the patent attorney profession and benefit clients. It featured a wide range of topics, including the potential impact of artificial intelligence and the EPO's strong commitment to supporting patent attorneys by ensuring its patent information tools are fit for their needs. To highlight the importance of collaborating with other patent information professionals, participants learnt about a practical example of co-operation between a patent attorney and a PATLIB centre that had generated added value in the service provided to their clients, alongside other mutual benefits.
The PATLIB track attracted over 250 participants, including PATLIB centres from many different member states. Its exciting mix of sessions underlined the EPO's firm commitment to boosting technology transfer and patent valorisation, and to revamping the PATLIB network to take it to the next level. PATLIB centres were given a glimpse into the future of PATLIB 2.0, particularly what they can expect in terms of the service packages. It was clear from the comments in the Q&A tool that the track also generated interest among participants not currently part of the PATLIB 2.0 project, including a consultant who asked how they could collaborate with a PATLIB centre.
The university track had over 280 participants and was described by one participant as having "Wonderful speakers and interesting discussions!" The track highlighted the essential role played by patent information right from the start of any research project, as well as its importance for successfully monetising the project's results. Speakers detailed how PATLIB centres could boost access to and the marketing of this information effectively by working closely with technology transfer offices. All the speakers also emphasised the need to foster this co-operation and promote awareness of IP and knowledge/technology transfer in the academic world.
The last day of the event saw over 300 participants attend the Asia track. Representatives from industry, commercial operators and experts from the EPO discussed the topic of searches using Asian applicant names. Apart from the language barriers, users also have to deal with different writing systems when searching Chinese, Japanese or Korean data. Databases often include several transliterations – and sometimes the names are even translated, as the dual characters of these writing systems make it difficult to identify all documents belonging to a certain applicant. Different affiliates of the same entity and changes of ownership pose further challenges. Attendees got an overview of the EPO's comprehensive standardisation processes for applicant names and learnt some useful tips and tricks for their own day-to-day work. EPO experts gave a tutorial on how to search using original-language names in Espacenet and how to use applicant codes when searching for Korean and Japanese applicants in tools provided by the Asian offices. Participants appreciated the track's content, including the "excellent and practical presentations".
The event ended with a private, one-off meeting of a patent knowledge think-tank. Ten eminent IP experts specially selected by the EPO explored the future of patent knowledge. A report from the think-tank will be made available in due course.