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First digital EPO Patent Information Conference marks start of a new era in patent knowledge

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The 30th annual EPO Patent Information Conference concluded yesterday, marking the first time in the event's history that it was hosted online. Some 300 participants from 38 countries, including patent searchers, patent office experts, and commercial patent information services providers, participated in a series of interactive presentations and discussions. The two-day event was initially planned to take place in Tallinn, Estonia but moved to an online format in light of the pandemic.

In his welcome, EPO President António Campinos announced a new direction for the conference. Starting in 2021 the Office will organise a new "Patent Knowledge Week", offering greater flexibility as well as extended focus on topics related to patent knowledge. The President also spoke on the role of intellectual property in driving recovery from coronavirus: "Innovation will not only find solutions to manage the pandemic - it will also fuel the growth needed to pull our economies out of post-COVID recession. With so much riding on innovation these days, the stakes have never been higher."

Setting the agenda

Marco Bravo, EPO Director Patent Knowledge Promotion, updated delegates on the PATLIB 2.0 project. PATLIB 2.0 seeks to give a major new impetus to the network of information and support centres - PATLIB centres - across the member states of the EPO. The initiative, based on seven recommendations defined in the Porto Paper of May 2019, aims to expand the range of services that PATLIB centres provide and boost IP guidance, technology transfer, and IP support across all member states.

Another key topic at this year's event was Artificial intelligence (AI). Several sessions underlined the impact of this technology on the patent system and shared lessons on searching for and analysing AI-related data. Irene Kitsara, WIPO IP Information Officer, delved into some of the findings of their 2019 Technology Trends report on AI, including their experience in developing an AI taxonomy and other key lessons learned from searching for AI-related patents. Her talk covered AI's relationship to intellectual property, and what it could mean for the future of people, tools and administrations.

IP offices worldwide have implemented a series of measures in response to the pandemic. These best practices were explored and the EPO reminded attendees of some of its own initiatives, including a recently published package of free online resources for scientific and clinical researchers, containing targeted searches, patent statistics and downloadable datasheets.

Other topics covered included the emerging trend of legal technology solutions, enhanced patent data, and the impact on patent searching of the new ISO norm on innovation management.

Dialogue with users is a central pillar of the conference and it has grown to be become an important platform for feedback. During one of the discussion rounds, participants were encouraged to share their views on the re-launched Espacenet. Now that it has been operating for a full year, users gave valuable insight that will help the Office identify gaps and gauge satisfaction levels. Another session focused on the CPC website, which the EPO plans to revamp in 2021.