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.
"[...] OHIM has launched a public consultation on the draft guidelines drawn up for renewing Registered Community Designs.
The first RCDs registered in 2003 are due for renewal in April 2008 and letters have already been sent to inform those affected so they can plan ahead. Renewal applications can be made either electronically or using paper forms, from November 1, 2007. [...]"
Mr Vincent O'Reilly, Director of Department for Industrial Property Policy at OHIM, says that comments on this document would be welcome no later than December 15, 2007. These should be sent by e-mail to:
vincent.oreilly - at - oami.europa.eu.
The process of formal adoption of the guidelines is expected to be finalised in 2008.
The purpose of the Renewal Guidelines is to explain how, in practice, the requirements of the Regulation on the Community Design1 (CDR) and the Community Design Implementing Regulation (CDIR) as well as the Community Design Fees Regulation (CDFR) will be applied by the Office in the renewal of a registered Community design. The Guidelines assist the members of the Register service to consistently apply the Regulations to the renewal proceedings and serve as a guide to the parties concerned. There is also an annex to the RCD Renewal Guidelines exhibiting the computer screen layout of the eRenewal form.
I am wondering about why OHIM did not make it to launch this public consultation a little bit more ahead of November 01, 2007 ...
EU Patent Jurisdiction: Details of New Proposals From Portuguese EU Presidency.
A few days ago I had posted a short notice concerning a new proposal of the Portuguese EU Presidency in view of future patent jurisdiction. Now, the EU Council has just published Document 13675/07 titled "Towards an EU Patent Jurisdiction - Points for discussion". It originates from the Portuguese EU Presidency and addresses the Working Party on Intellectual Property (Patents). According to the text, the present non paper aims at setting out in more technical detail the possible features of a future unified and integrated patent litigation system which, it is hoped, could find the support of Member States (MS) and users. It is based on the results of the deliberations of the Council Working Group following the Commission's Communication dated 3 April 2007 and previous work carried out by Member States and users, in particular in the context of work on the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA). Moreover it reflects the first reactions of Member States and stakeholders during informal consultations carried out during the month of September 2007.
In order to ensure efficiency and coherence of patent litigation the EU patent jurisdiction should be an exclusive jurisdiction dealing with validity, infringement and inter-related proceedings concerning European patents and future Community patents.
It should comprise a first instance with one central division and divisions located in Member States, a second instance and a Registry.
All divisions would form an integral part of a unified Community jurisdiction with uniform procedures.
The centralised entities could consist of specialised and distinct bodies. They would, however, be linked with the European Court of Justice.
The first instance divisions would have exclusive civil jurisdiction in respect of
actions for actual or threatened infringement or for a declaration of non-infringement;
direct actions or counter-claims for invalidity;
actions or claims for damages, other related issues and legal costs;
injunctions and provisional measures.
The first instance divisions located at MS/regional level should have jurisdiction over infringement cases unless the parties agree to refer the case to the central division (for allocation of cases see below).
In order to guarantee a maximum of expertise and technical knowledge in cases concerning the validity of patents and in order to avoid diverging judgements it would seem to be preferable that the central division should be hearing direct actions concerning the revocation of patents and actions for declaration of non-infringement.
In the case of counter-claims for invalidity the first instance division at MS or regional level concerned should, at the request of the patentee either stay proceedings and refer the case for a decision concerning the validity to the central division or involve judges from the central division when it considers that the patent should be revoked.
A second instance Court would be created which would deal exclusively with appeals of judgements of the first instance divisions. It would be composed by judges with a high level of expertise in patent litigation.
It could be created at the Court of First Instance with one or two specialized chambers or alternatively as a new distinct entity.
Where there is a serious risk that the unity or consistency of Community law would be affected, the decisions of the second instance could be reviewed by the ECJ, at the request of the First Advocate General. Review procedures should not have a suspensive effect.
The judges of the first instance divisions at MS level should come from the Member States concerned. However, these divisions would be entitled to include judges from another MS on the bench. Judges could be recruited amongst members of the EPO or national offices' Boards of Appeal, patent judges, patent attorneys etc. To this effect a pool of distinguished patent judges would be created at Community level.
In this overall context, the German delegation has set up its own paper published by the EU Council as Document 13878/07 defending some particulars of the German model of patent jurisdiction:
If invalidity actions are handled in distinct proceedings subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of a central judicial entity and infringement actions are handled separately in decentralized chambers, the procedural rules to be applied in each case can be better tailored to the respective distinctive features of the subject of the proceedings.
Without the separation of invalidity cases and infringement cases suggested in Doc. 13675/07 it will hardly be possible to reach compromises on the aforementioned points which will both satisfactorily meet the practical needs of the parties in these cases and be politically acceptable to the Member States.
Participation of technical judges in the decision-making process is advisable in invalidity proceedings for the following reasons:
Even prior to the oral proceedings technical judges can help to ensure that the technical issues of relevance for the decision are also correctly set out to the legally qualified judges.
They can direct targeted questions to the technically qualified parties.
They ensure that the court has the same level of technical expertise as the authority whose technically well-founded decision is contested in the proceedings.
Technical judges can more quickly determine whether a new submission of a party justifies a further delay in the proceedings.
In many cases, technical judges can make the use of experts dispensable.
By virtue of these advantages technical judges contribute simultaneously to expeditious and well-founded decision-making.
The German delegation further stresses that it is important that the recruitment procedures for technical judges ensure that they are just as independent and impartial as legally qualified judges as stated in the Presidency non-paper (ST 13675/07 No. 10). The use of technical judges should strengthen the right of plaintiffs and defendants to effectively make their positions heard in fair and impartial proceedings.
Both papers cited here are silent on the question of the admission of patent attorneys to the new court system in question. In this contest the current situation appears to be quite precarious in particular for patent attorneys in Germany and in the UK.
Recently there has been some unfavourable development in the field of trade marks: Taken as such, the Case T-315/03 decided by the EU Court of First Instance (CFI) on June 08, 2005, appears not very much exciting: A certain applicant did not get his desired registration "ROCKBASS" for
Class 9: Technical sound equipment, mixing desks, sound effect equipment, amplifiers, loudspeaker boxes, active loudspeaker boxes (combos); containers, cases and bags for the aforesaid goods;
Class 15: Musical instruments, in particular guitars, electric guitars, bass guitars, acoustic guitars, guitar accessories, namely strings, frets, truss rods and straps; containers, cases and bags for the aforesaid goods;
Class 18: Containers, cases and bags
because of OHIM had taken the view that the word mark ROCKBASS was directly descriptive of musical instruments and their accessories, and of the other goods specified in the application, in so far as their descriptions include goods used in connection with bass guitars. Moreover, the Applicant was not successful before the CFI either. A routine matter in European Trade Mark Law so far. See e.g. the discussion of that ROCKBASS matter on IPKat.
However, the entire case comprised a second level of dispute: A legal row over the question as to whether or not a Patentanwalt is entitled to speak on behalf of a Client before the CFI. In this case the Applicant insisted on his Patentanwalt being allowed to speak on his behalf before CFI, and even went as far as to appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) with regard to this aspect of the matter (Case C-301/05 P). But it soon become clear that those circles are not even willing to think of allowing a Patentanwalt to act before both European Courts even if under supervision of a Rechtsanwalt (lawyer).
The problem of representation by a qualified patent attorney is even more crucial in the field of patents; see e.g. the Second Venice Resolution where, under number 5, proposal is re-affirmed not to allow patent attorneys as representatives in EPLA cases.
In short, the community of judges at CFI/ECJ and at other Courts in the EU Member States appears to be quite resolved not to tolerate or even support any attempt to allow patent attorneys to appear in those Courts. As the level of regulation and required traineeship as well as of professional rights of patent attorneys varies throughout the Member Countries of the EU from country to country, it is not to be easily expected that many or even all Governments of EU Member States can be convinced to endorse any attempt to establish a stronger position of patent attorneys without any reservation. But it is a mainly political issue. The desire appears to be paramount not to disturb the established delicate balance between lawyers, on the one hand, and patent attorneys, on the other hand. By this, some well-established positions on a national scale in some EU Member States, e.g. of UK and German patent attorneys to represent their Clients before various Courts, are in danger of going to the dogs when national institutions are replaced by European counterparts.
The Portuguese proposal will be discussed in camera Wednesday October 17, 2007, on the session of the Working Party on Intellectual Property (Patents), see Document CM 3266/07.
Mr Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, at the occasion of a Honorary Fellowship speech, Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, October 12, 2007:
"[...] But to maximise our prospects of success, we will have a lot to do at European level to move our economies up the value chain. Clearly Europe needs to quickly develop a bigger and more efficient knowledge based economy. That sounds like a cliché. But we can only do it through effective action: Action that will produce more innovators, educated in Europe, remaining in Europe and registering and protecting their patents in Europe. But can we really expect young inventors or start-up businesses that are the seed corn of our future prosperity to register and protect their patents in Europe if the cost of doing it is 11 times greater than in the United States? Against this background, should we be surprised that we are so far behind on innovation? The excessive costs are not the product of some externalities that we cannot control but of an unwieldy litigation regime and a cumbersome patent registration regime across 27 Member States instead of a single patent regime and simple litigation regime for all Member States. The solution to this problem is within our hands and that is why I have put forward some ideas over the past six months for moving forward in this area. It is simply not acceptable for issues such as language to stand in the way of sorting this problem out. The sooner we address it, the more innovation in Europe there will be, and the more new investment, growth and jobs we can create. [...]"
Prominent Critic of Patent System Wins Nobel Prize.
US economists Mr Leonid Hurwicz, Mr Eric Maskin and Mr Roger Myerson have won the Nobel prize for economics, BBC reports.
Mr Maskin is well-known for his critics concerning the patent system. Take, for example, the paper written in 1999 by Mr James Bessen and Mr Eric Maskin on Sequential Innovation:
"[...] How could such industries as software, semiconductors, and computers have been so innovative despite historically weak patent protection? We argue that if innovation is both sequential and complementary - as it certainly has been in those industries - competition can increase firms' future profits thus offsetting short-term dissipation of rents. A simple model also shows that in such a dynamic industry, patent protection may reduce overall innovation and social welfare. The natural experiment that occurred when patent protection was extended to software in the 1980's provides a test of this model. Standard arguments would predict that R&D intensity and productivity should have increased among patenting firms. Consistent with our model, however, these increases did not occur. Other evidence supporting our model includes a distinctive pattern of cross-licensing in these industries and a positive relationship between rates of innovation and firm entry. [...]"
Awarding the Nobel prize does not automatically mean that such theories are ever interpreted correctly. However, this decision of the Nobel committee shows how far theories dealing with the patent system in a rather inclement way are mainstream amongst scholars in the field of economy.
See further information on Mr Maskin's relationship with the patent system here.
"[...] BRUSSELS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - EU President Portugal has proposed a new EU patent jurisdiction to end a deadlock over how to defend innovations under the 27-nation bloc's laws, a document obtained by Reuters showed on Thursday. [...]"
The report further says that the Portuguese proposal would create an EU patent jurisdiction, borrowing heavily from the draft European Patent Litigation Agreement of EPLA which appears to be failed by not gaining appropriate political majorities.
"[...] The annual overview of selected decisions by OHIM's Boards of Appeal is grouped by types of decision, such as procedural issues or grounds for refusal. The overview for 2006, available in PDF format, was prepared as a pilot project by the Board's Documentation and Support Service. Future annual reviews are planned for publication in the early months of the following year. [...]"
In the latest issue of The Economist there is an interesting article on Open Innovation. It brings a concise review of some more or less well-known pros and cons thereof, citing some of the success stories like Procter&Gamble or IBM as well as critics like Mr David Gann and Mr Linus Dahlander, both of London's Imperial College, who argue that firms have always been open to some degree and that the benefits differ depending on their line of business. Those using older technologies, for instance, may benefit less. The costs of open innovation, in management distraction or lost intellectual property rights, are not nearly as well studied as its putative benefits, they say.
Nevertheless, what can be observed today is that there is an increasing number of companies demonstrating that a centrally planned approach is giving way to some more open, even somewhat anarchic, new model of innovation. And, for example, Mr Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Science and Research recently stated, on the High Level Conference on the European Research Area 'The Future of Science & Technology in Europe', Lisbon (Portugal), October 08, 2007:
"[...] Increasingly, businesses thrive in an environment of 'open innovation', where connections with each other and with public research institutions are vital to explore ideas and develop products more effectively than would be the case alone. [...]"
What does this mean for more formalised ways of dealing with intellectual property, in particular patents? The Economist concludes - in particular in view of branches where Open Innovation plays a role:
"[...] For one thing, patents are becoming much less important nowadays than brands and the speed at which products can be got to market. It is true that some of the rising stars in developing economies are beginning to take out more patents, but many of their innovations are still kept quiet as trade secrets. So fluid are their markets, and so weak the historical patent-protection in them, that bosses often prefer to keep things in the dark - and come up with the next innovation as necessary to stay ahead of the competition.
Even in developed markets, the acceleration of innovation is making patents less relevant. What is more, say brand experts at P&G (which claims not even to count patents any longer), the dizzying pace of change today confuses consumers with a baffling array of choices. Such firms are increasingly turning to trusted brands to simplify things for their customers. Andrew Herbert, head of Microsoft's research centre in Cambridge, England, puts it this way: 'Our brand hides a tremendous amount of innovation.' [...]"
Then a final conclusion is offered:
"[...] For a business that uses open and networked innovation, it matters less where ideas are invented. Managers need to focus on extracting value from ideas, wherever they come from. Unfortunately government planners, who are often obsessed with national innovation policies and the need to create clusters like Silicon Valley, have not learnt this lesson. History also shows that countries that come up with new technologies are often not the ones that commercialise or popularise those inventions. Richard Halkett, of Nesta, a British research body devoted to innovation policy, jokes that the right policy for governments should be 'never invented here'. He may be right. [...]"
Perhaps patent people might wish to think about that.
"[...] The rumor goes that France is due to make a sea change shift towards supporting the EPLA, an initiative to harmonize the way patents are being litigated in Europe. The French Research Minister (heading the French Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche) Valérie Pecresse, has sent a letter (or is about to do so) to her German counterpart, expressing the French support for EPLA. [...]"
"[...] The annual General Assemblies of the UN World Intellectual Property Organization ended in a stalemate Wednesday with no approval of a new budget or proposed cuts in patent fees and no decision on the fate of embattled Director General Kamil Idris, according to early reports from some participants.
'It was a catastrophe,' said a participating government official.
The collapse came after voting, rare in WIPO meetings, blocked attempted compromises on patent fee cuts and the budget, according to sources. The outcome potentially adds pressure on the director general, who developed countries are pushing to resign. [...]"
Now things seem to turn from bad to worse. Mr Bradley S. Klapper, Associated Press Writer, on Chron:
"[...] The United States is currently examining a range of responses if WIPO member states continue to protect Idris from scrutiny. Possible withdrawal from the organization is being examined, though such a move is not imminent, said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussions. [...]"
"[...] For WIPO, on the other hand, the consequences could be extremely damaging, especially if the US were followed by other countries from the developed world which are also frustrated by the current Idris impasse. Without their membership, WIPO's policy-making role would effectively come to an end, leaving the Geneva-based organisation as little more than a clearing house for international IP applications.
Of course, we are a long, long way from any of this actually happening, but as there seems to be little practical downside, it is not hard to imagine that the US, at least, may pull the trigger at some stage. This is especially so as it would be a relatively easy way to send out a general message to the UN - a body that the current Bush Administration does not see eye to eye with on many levels. The Director General and his supporters would do well to consider this over the coming days. [...]"
Currently I do not believe that these most extreme consequences will actually happen because of the pressure on Mr Idris will soon become unbearable. And, if they should ever happen, then because of other matters from the past like the upcoming of the debate on an WIPO Development Agenda attempting to turn WIPO round from a pro-IP organisation into something like an agency for fostering Intellectual Commons, effectively stalling the SPLT negotiation process. This surely has made the Bush administration in Washington unhappy, and current warnings to leave WIPO might perhaps be seen as a nice example of the U.S. impressing the rest of world by mooting some extension of unilateral politics in order to facilitate reaching own political objectives. Nobody should forget that WIPO actually is an agency of the United Nations, see Article 1 of the Agreement between the United Nations and the World Intellectual Property Organization. The political ambivalence of the U.S. in view of their overall relationship with the United Nations also now appears to extend over their relations with WIPO.
Anyway, Mr New also has reported that Switzerland, in its role as host country of the World Intellectual Property Organization, this week issued a call for an immediate search for a new leader of the organisation in order to address concerns of mismanagement and lack of credibility.
See also a report on Tribune de Geneve, Switzerland, editor-in-chief Pierre Ruetschi quoting the quarrel could have serious consequences for Geneva. The future of WIPO is at risk, Ruetschi said, because its credibility has been undermined by the Idris affair. The US is looking for other ways of regulating intellectual property and if it decides to go it alone 'the days of WIPO are numbered.'
UK Consultation on Proposed Changes Relating to EC Legislation on Compulsory Licences and on Supplementary Protection Certificates.
The UK-IPO has published on their website a consultation document seeking comments on proposed changes to the Patents Act 1977 relating to EC legislation on compulsory licences and on supplementary protection certificates.
Comments on the draft Regulations are asked for by October 31, 2007.
"[...] A fifth Board of Appeal, chaired by President of the Boards, Paul Maier, has been set up in order to deal with the growing workload.
The initiative is in response to the increased volume of applications received by the Office, combined with efforts to reduce timescales. This year the Boards of Appeal expect to deal with around 2,000 cases - over 20% more than in 2006.
'As backlogs are eliminated at the examination, opposition and cancellation stages, the number of appeals we deal with inevitably rises, even though the rates of appeal against Office decisions have remained quite stable, and have even gone down slightly for oppositions,' says Maier. [...]"
The recent issue 03/2007 is ready for download here (PDF).
From the Table of Contents:
Election to the Council of the Institute in 2008
Decision of the Disciplinary Boards of Appeal D 0025/05
Report on EU Symposium "The Future of the Patent Jurisdiction in Europe", Munich 25th-26th June 2007 at the German Federal Patents Court, by Mr E. Lyndon-Stanford
Report on EPLA - Litigation Working Party Meeting, 27th June 2007, by Mr E. Lyndon-Stanford
"Les troisièmes Rencontres européennes du CEIPI", Report by Mr L. Nuss
CEIPI study course "Master of IP Law and Management", note by the epi President and report on the 1st course, by Mr P. Rosenich
Selection of PCT Receiving Office, by Mr L. Steenbeek
Notice from the European Patent Office, dated 18 June 2007, concerning Spanish reservation on Chemical and Pharmaceutical Product Claims
Draft European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA): Jurisdiction of the European Patent Court and effects of decisions, by Mr S. Luginbuehl and Mr E. Waage
Orphan Drug legislation, by Mr M. Gibson
Deadline for the next issue of epi Information is November 02, 2007. Documents for publication should have reached the Secretariat by this date. There will be a themed issue 1/2008 "Effects and Expectations of EPC 2000" Submissions are requested by the epi Secretariat as soon as possible.
There is no doubt that currently EPO is deep within a process of self-transformation, the limits and consequences of which currently appear not yet to be properly assessable by the general public. I would like to point to two interesting postings on the EPO website which are not just brand-new but which are, I assume, less known than deserved.
A first interesting item worth to be mentioned is the speech given by Mr R. Grossenbacher, Chairman of the Administrative Council, at the ceremony of the handing over of office between A. Pompidou and A. Brimelow on June 28, 2007:
"[...] But let me speak about the Office. As I said before, its main task is an operational one. To fulfil this task, it must behave as a businesslike international service enterprise. It should not compare itself to international organisations with political functions, but to the most efficient national civil services and to private service companies; that's the benchmark. We should not rely on the perpetual and unchanged existence of the Office's tasks. If we did, we would narrow both the political and operational freedom of action. On the contrary, we must make sure that the Office becomes capable to react, within a reasonable timeframe, to changing political and economic demands. This will not hamper the values of a 'Public service', which are often and not always to the best of understanding translated into terms like 'customer orientation' and other MBA terminology. On the contrary: It must lead to excellence in public service.
Concretely, we must diminish long-term liabilities and the decision making processes must become more efficient and effective. One central element in this regard is staff regulation and policy. I am convinced that it will be unavoidable to come to contractual employment, to an independent pension fund based on a capitalisation system, and generally speaking to reallocate more benefits to the period of active service. Another principle should be to recruit examiners around 45 years old instead of 25, with the option (for the Office and willing staff members) to work till 70. This would at the same time be an important contribution to improving the capacity to innovate and the competitiveness of Europe because it would help counteract the lack of engineers and chemists in our industry. Young scientists would not be taken out of the labour market and older ones would be offered a second career. Another important aspect is the involvement of the staff in the decision making process. The current situation of staff representatives, who, on one hand, are part of the Office and subject to EPO staff regulation and, on the other, leaders of the Staff Union, is unsatisfactory in many regards. To establish a functioning social partnership there should be one partner on each side and clear rules about how to conduct negotiations and solve conflicts. The double role of individuals as staff representatives and Staff Union Representatives blurs the delineation of responsibilities, does not help build trust and hampers the shaping of decisions.
Such improvements should strengthen the Office, further enhance its capacity to solve problems, and make it fit for change because change will happen, as it always has and will. The question is whether we'll be frontrunners or followers. A lot of challenges cannot wait until internal reforms are completed. Reforms are never completed anyway - it's a permanent process. Important progress has already been made throughout the existence of the EPO, and certainly during the outgoing President's term of office.
One of the challenges will be to implement the outcome of the strategy debate, building the European Patent Network and, most important, mastering the workload. Without anticipating the proposals which Board 28 will present in this regard before the end of this year, I can say that the quality issue will play a decisive role in this. Opening up the search phase will be discussed as a means to enhance quality, but mutual recognition will have to be carefully avoided. During the search phase, we should welcome not only the contributions of the National Patent Offices and those from the PCT system, but also those from applicants and a wider public as well. Finally, the debate on the workload should include principles such as sticking to core business and striving for a lean structure with little overhead. These efforts will be decisive in making the Office an efficient, businesslike service enterprise at the disposal of the EPOrganisation and thus the European industry. [...]"
Ominous "Board 28" mentioned by Mr R. Grossenbacher is nothing else than the Board of the Administrative Council as set up by the Decision of the Administrative Council of 5 June 2003. Originally it was created merely to assist the Chairman of the Administrative Council in preparing the Administrative Council's work. Moreover, at the invitation of the Chairman, the chairmen of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Committee on Patent Law are to be regularly involved in the Board's discussions. But on the 106th meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (26 to 30 June 2006), Board 28 was mandated to conduct a study on the "big picture" of how the European patent system should best deal with its future workload, as proposed by the EPO. The study is to be concluded by the end of 2007 and I expect that it will comprise major statements concerning, inter alia, building the European Patent Network, enhancing the patent examination quality (raising the bar, i.e. making it harder to obtain a patent), and UPP. The Council noted that the Board of the Administrative Council has to work in close contact with all stakeholders and would report regularly to the Council. Today I'm not aware as to how such contacts with all stakeholders are implemented but I guess that this is dealt with in a sphere of confidentiality.
Starting point of this scenario is the fact that new office technologies of today offer planners for future intellectual property offices wide opportunities to improve procedures under which their offices will operate, the places where their employees may reside, the people who may choose to be their employees and the intellectual property products that they offer the public.
In the scenario, the authors make a short visit to that world, dropping in on a few members of the intellectual property community of the future and watching them working during a typical day. They intend to offer this glimpse as a spur to the imaginations of our readers, as a starting point for a discussion in a meeting room or friendly pub. I'll give a brief quoting from the second part thereof:
"[...] When she first started at the USPTO as a young examiner there had been five buildings on campus, six if you counted Madison East and West as two. Then, one by one, the buildings had closed, as regional offices around the country opened and home offices around them started to flourish. Two, three, eight, twenty regional offices opened, each the sun for a constellation of employees working in their apartments, houses, local conference centers and even street cyber cafés. The Office had truly gone national, thanks to high tech communications. Her husband Girard had even suggested that they move back to Texas, and work from the remote office in that state, but only jokingly. They both enjoyed the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, the Smithsonian and the other diversions of the capital city too much. So as Leslie rose in the USPTO management ranks, and as the Office headquarters shrank to just a single building, her hassles grew.
As a senior Director Leslie was responsible for managing 500 examiners, spread across 16 states, 2 provinces and 8 countries. Though Leslie had been trained mainly in patent law, which was a benefit to the 472 patent examiners reporting to her, the USPTO was truly an intellectual property facility, and 8 design examiners, 12 trademark examiners and 8 copyright registrars were hers to schedule, lead, teach, discipline and inspire; that is, hers to manage. Tools to accomplish this impossible management task were of the same style as the original installations when she first joined the USPTO, but were far more refined. They included instant audio and video communications across the Internet and across the world, multi-person collaboration on documents, instant messaging and other office facilities. Of course person-to-person interviews were still highly regarded; so much gets done when one can speak freely.
But as always, the key to managing was knowing her people, a job she did well. She studied her people: their credentials, their skills and abilities, their likes and dislikes, their time zones and work schedules, and what motivated them. Much was different now from when she was first made a supervisor: she managed some employees, but mostly independent professional examiners. A few were in this building, Madison, but almost all lived relatively far away. Some new prospective examiners were trained for a term at the Office, but most now were graduating with a degree in Patent Examination from top tier colleges, on all continents. After certification by the Offices, examiners chose where to practice- within 75 miles of one of the regional centers, or in any location they preferred in a Trilateral country, as long as the location fit certain criteria. Just last year Leslie was pleased to see that a 10th professional examiner had located around Chartres, in France, so she could authorize a conference center there. It was a lovely area which she had visited for meetings and interviews, perhaps, more interviews than were strictly necessary. She still remembered that delicious French cuisine from that nearby restaurant that she and Girard had enjoyed. Perhaps she should set up some refresher technical and legal training for the examiners there, that she would have to oversee. Now that was a good idea.
Innovation was remaining the modus operandi at all intellectual property offices, and though she welcomed the challenge of change, it certainly made her job more difficult. Most recently she was considering the new positions of intellectual property customer representatives, and how she was to staff them. It was fine for the 'Execs' to conceive of a single Trilateral representative to service an applicant, to advise him on his patent, trademark and copyright needs, to schedule application flows to the Trilateral Offices and to other Offices through WIPO. But wherever was she to find qualified people to staff these positions? Perhaps she should advertise in the intellectual property bar publications, to attract older, more experienced intellectual property attorneys who may, for one reason or another, wish to enter government service. Certainly the concept seemed interesting: a single intellectual property office representative to guide the customer in his choice of property protections, work with the applicant's attorneys, and yet be part of the system sufficiently to schedule the work to be done in all the Offices in accordance with the Offices' capacities and availabilities. She would have to be very careful in this selection; she would be working closely with this person on all cases. She would like to model the selection on that first person she hired for the position, that guy from The Hague. He did a masterful job on that complicated embedded wrist watch case, making all the right contacts to get the applications examined and registered quickly. [...]"
OK, this clearly appears to be something like the result of a brainstorming session between U.S. and EP technology-driven innovators who attempt to finalise the very realistic concept of a European Patent Network (EPN) once it would be radicalised and generalised on the basis of the Trilateral co-operation.
It should be understood that this scenario does not necessarily represent the views of President of the EPO, of the Administrative Council or of "Board 28". However, the mere fact that the EPO has agreed to publish this on the Official EPO website indicated that top-level executives and members of governing bodies might not feel appalled when confronted with such ideas.
And it does not come as a surprise that in view of such prospects, not all EPO staff is full of enthusiasm.
It is worth to note that the essay of Mr Lucas and Mr Bambridge does have a chapter titled "inventor" but no corresponding part describing the scenario from the perspective of an applicant or professional representative (patent attorney).