EPO achieves major performance gains in 2015
The comprehensive reforms undertaken at the EPO in recent years have translated into unprecedented increases in the performance of the Office, with significant improvements in productivity, timeliness and quality in 2015.
Against the backdrop of rising demand for patent protection in Europe, the EPO's 4 200 patent examiners delivered a record total of 365 000 "products" (such as searches and examinations), an increase of 14% compared to 2014. This was not only achieved through strongly refocusing patent examiner resources on the grant and opposition processes, but also an effect of the EPO's recruitment strategy and improvement of IT systems.
"2015 was a very successful year for the EPO and the entire staff can be proud of these achievements," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "The internal reforms we have undertaken to improve the efficiency of the organisation are paying off. We will work hard to ensure that our organisation continues to improve even further in all areas in 2016 so that users can continue to rely on our quality and efficiency."
With 68 400 (up from 64 600 in 2014), the number of granted patents published last year slightly surpassed the target, whilst the grant rate remained unchanged at roughly 48%. The EPO also improved its timeliness in the delivery of its products and services. In the first 18 months of the new "Early Certainty from Search" programme, which prioritises the delivery of search reports with written opinions on patentability within six months from filing, over 85% of the reports produced met this target (including over 90% of international search reports being ready in time for "A"-publication). At the same time the backlog of searches fell by two thirds.
While objectives have been met with increases in productivity, timeliness and production, the quality of EPO products and services, too, has increased.
At the end of 2015 the EPO obtained ISO 9001 certification for its patent information and post-grant activities, resulting in quality certification for the entire patent process. The demanding targets set in accordance with the Office's quality policy were all met or even surpassed in 2015. Our internal quality measures (Conformity Assurance in Search and Examination (CASE) compliance indices) were 98.6% for searches and 98.7% for examinations respectively (against targets for both of 95%). These indicate the very high proportion of products judged to be error-free.
The EPO also successfully continued its internationally recognised and efficient classification work (the indexing of new publications from all over the world to facilitate their retrieval in future searches), which is the cornerstone of a high-quality search. Almost 1.1 million documents were classified in 2015, and the backlog of documents awaiting classification was reduced from 56 278 to just 18 508, well below the 50 000 target.
Better performance at no additional cost
Thanks to efficiency gains made through internal reforms, these improvements have come at no extra cost to the user. Fees have remained stable since 2010, other than small adjustments for inflation. Furthermore, the EPO could ensure that its main procedural fee - the PCT search fee -remains frozen (since 2012) and the freeze will be extended to the PCT examination fee as from 1st April 2016.