EPO publishes Quality Report 2017
The EPO has today published the second edition of its dedicated Quality Report. Compared with the 2016 edition, the report provides more extensive information and details on existing and new measures to deliver high-quality products and services.
"Quality is our number one priority and in 2017 we continued to adapt to make changes and intensify efforts to maintain our advantage in this area," said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. "This report allows us to give our users a full understanding of the actions we're undertaking to provide the highest quality patents."
Last year, the EPO set a precedent by publishing its first Quality Report covering 2016. The user community and other stakeholders welcomed this initiative to increase transparency. The 2017 report provides the latest detailed information on the EPO's quality management system and the various initiatives the Office has taken to improve quality in the course of the last year, including:
- IS0 9001 re-certification - In December 2017 the EPO obtained ISO 9001 re-certification for its Quality Management System for the entire patent process, which was achieved with no instances of non-conformity.
- Quality and internal re-organisation - The 2017 edition explains how a recent internal re-organisation of the Office is contributing to increasing quality and efficiency. Under the new structure, patent examiners and formalities officers work side-by-side in the same units, thereby reducing inter-departmental handover points and enhancing opportunities for quality improvements. New opposition and central formalities directorates were created, composed of 500 specially selected examiners and dedicated formalities officers. This means that opposition expertise will be concentrated and, as a result, quality and harmonisation will be improved.
- Improved timeliness - Timeliness is an integral part of the EPO's quality policy. In 2017, the Office achieved substantial reductions in the time needed to complete search, examination and opposition procedures. For example in the area of search, the EPO has already managed to reach (and even surpass) its goal of establishing a comprehensive search and written opinion within six months from filing of the application with the EPO.
- The role of Asian prior art - The growing use of Asian prior art by EPO patent examiners is also highlighted in the report. This is the result of ongoing measures undertaken such as the use by examiners of Patent Translate, training efforts, increased use of the Cooperative Patent Classification globally and improved tools.
- Expanded documentation - The EPO's efforts to set up a comprehensive, complete documentation collection have resulted in over one billion technical records and 50 million Asian-origin patent documents, thereby guaranteeing high-quality searches. For example, the EPO has been very active in recent years in obtaining standards-related documentation, and we now have over three million standards records in our data collection. These are accessed by our examiners to provide high-quality search reports from which applicants and the general public can benefit.
- Extended user dialogue - The Quality Report concludes with a focus on our intensive dialogue with users and stakeholders, underlining that their feedback forms an integral part of the EPO's quality management system. Our annual user satisfaction surveys also now involve some 5 000 interviews with our users. For instance, the most recent survey results show that between 2015 and 2017, levels of user satisfaction with patent administration services increased from 80% to 89%.