EPO Touting "A New Patent Information Policy For Europe".
On the EPO website an announcement is given concerning a new policy on patent information:
"[...] EPO Vice President Curt Edjfäll outlined how the Office's new patent information policy will make patent documents more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises in a speech to the EPO Patent Information Conference this week.
He said that 'ensuring barrier-free public access to the information contained in patent documents' is a 'key element' of the new patent information policy, which was approved by the EPO's Administrative Council in June.
The Vice President responsible for patent information at the EPO outlined five areas that the Office would focus on in the coming years:
supporting patent information activities in the member states,
providing industry with barrier-free access to the information contained in patent documents, including Asian documents,
facilitating high quality patent applications through better access to data,
the development of new tools for less experienced searchers, and
information and training activities.
'The idea behind it is that we start removing some of the obstacles that currently hinder the best possible access to patent data for industry in Europe, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, universities and research centres, industry and bodies involved in filing patent applications, granting patents and disseminating patent information,' Edjfäll said. [...]"
Hmmm.... should I be impressed by that announcement?
A good starting point for greatly improving epoline.org facilities might well be:
Do away with that rather obscure limitation of the 'opening hours' from 08:00 to 18:00 Rijswijk time of the epoline file wrapper PDF images database. The Internet does not know anything like a Ladenschlussgesetz.
Make EPO Official file wrapper PDF files statically linkable.
Make EPO patent document PDF files statically linkable.
I guess that amazing new software might evolve once EPO would decide to foster mash-ups of patent data with other data sources without unnecessary technical, legal and pecuniary hurdles.
From Patent Information News issue 3/2007 I have learnt that the EPO has also begun work on implementing a "fair use" policy which will allow the OPS system and esp@cenet to be monitored and, if necessary, for access to them to be restricted. They say these services are meant for individual searching and were not intended for high-volume usage by machines, or for bulk data delivery. More details of our "fair use" policy will appear soon. I hope this won't apply to SOAP interfaces of the EPO database. Anyway, this does not sound as if EPO would be prepared to encourage mash-up solutions of third parties. If EPO should really, really be afraid that they might not have sufficient funds to pay for some heavy-duty Internet infrastructure able to cope with the server load of a data-hungry Internet public eager to tinker with patent data they might wish to consider giving raw data right now to Google. Whatever you might think about Google's business model and business politics, they at least have proven in a striking way that they have enough datacenter power to host huge amounts of data and give them away to the general public for free.
Concerning Raw data resources (formerly INPADOC website), they say in their Information News that "More information is available at
I intend to review this section later but what I especially do not understand is why, from a political point of view, EPO still insists to hand over bulk raw data only under some sort of quite restrictive Reseller Agreement or Licensing Agreement. If EPO really desires to be serious with "barrier-free access" to patent data they should abolish fees and unnecessary restrictions. I do not have figures available but I guess that the revenue streams generated from selling EPO data products can't be that huge compared to the other revenue streams from Official fees. Take, for example, the above-mentioned License Agreement. It, inter alia, requires that "the Licensee shall take all necessary security measures, at least equal to but not restricted to those taken by it with regard to other similar databases, to ensure the integrity of the Original EPO-Database(s) and to safeguard them from un-authorized - irrespective of whether in total or in part - access, copying, changing, translation, adaptation and use". Such clauses surely are well designed to prevent any non-commercial dissemination projects on the Internet based on bulk raw data to be provided from EPO. The general thinking behind such contractual provisions appears to be one of the most significant barriers to a broader and "barrier-free" dissemination of patent data.