EPO Again Tops Patent Quality List

Munich, 28 June 2011 — The European Patent Office (EPO) was ranked first for patent quality among the world’s five largest patent offices for the second consecutive year in a survey of corporate and private practice IP professionals conducted jointly by Thomson Reuters and Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) magazine.

The annual benchmarking survey, published in the June issue of the magazine, finds that the EPO leads by a wide margin in terms of perceived patent quality, and has even improved its position over last year.

According to the survey, 74% of in-house counsels thought that the quality of patents granted by the EPO is “excellent or very good” (up from 71% last year), with 62% of the private practice attorneys sharing this view (up from 56% last year). The Japan Patent Office came in second with 57% and 43% respectively, followed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (50% and 37%), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (34% and 24%) and the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China (23% and 13%).

“The results of this survey are a renewed confirmation of the EPO’s efforts to strengthen the quality of European patents for the benefit of society and the economy,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “Quality has always driven the EPO’s policy, as only high-quality patents provide the legal certainty that makes them such a valuable tool for companies, individual inventors and third parties alike. The EPO continues to invest heavily in boosting quality, especially by streamlining procedures and improving IT systems. And this study shows that our efforts at establishing a quality-based patent system are paying off.”

According to the magazine, the EPO is consistently recognised by users as the world’s leading issuing authority when it comes to the quality of the patents it grants. “Those that take part in the survey are senior in-house and private practice professionals who have experience of all the world’s leading patent offices, so they should know what they are talking about,” said Joff Wild, Editor of IAM magazine. “It is clear that they believe the EPO currently sets the global standard that other offices should seek to emulate.”

The survey also finds that the quality of patents granted by the EPO is seen to have improved from previous years: 22% of the in-house attorneys from companies and 26% of their counterparts in private practice agreed with this view, while roughly two thirds of the respondents thought that it had stayed the same, and 7% and 9% respectively answered that the quality had deteriorated.

The survey was carried out among 650 corporate patent attorneys, private practice lawyers and attorneys from the magazine’s readership, especially individuals occupying senior positions. It seeks to shed light on the professional environment they are working in, covering a wide range of issues such as corporate awareness of IP issues, portfolio management, performance of leading patent offices, licensing and litigation.


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6 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for 4Mark]
    June 30, 2011 04:24 pm

    Well Paul, thanks but even if the aggregate of the filing, search and substantive exam fee at the EPO is higher than elsewhere, it is what you pay for a 3 Examiner multi-lingfual team covering a 42 country, 600 million voter constituency. What issues ought to be sound. Perhaps it is the German influence. They don’t believe in the mantra “Cheapest is Best” nor do they always go for the cheapest quote. Cheapest, that doesn’t work, ends up the most expensive, they tend to think.

    Go on, tell us, which PTO gives the best value for money? Those in unexamined rights, registration only countries, perhaps? German Gebrauchsmuster, anybody?

  • [Avatar for Paul F. Morgan]
    Paul F. Morgan
    June 30, 2011 11:41 am

    The response that “One must be very careful to distinguish between the total cost of procuring patent rights in the 42 country EPO and the proportion of that cost represented by fees payable to the EPO.” is a red herring. The total fees of the EPO itself, BEFORE the EPO application is allowed and before the additionally expensive national European country patenting, is already greatly in excess of USPTO and JPO fees.

    The answer to “4Mark’s” good questions above is inadequate resource application to cost control, outside counsel control, and personal decision-making avoidance [for person job protection at the expense of the stockholders] by the internal IP management and internal patent attorneys of many large companies using the EPO.

  • [Avatar for 4Mark]
    June 29, 2011 04:11 pm

    Michael Feigin makes a good point, that the “you have to mean it” atmosphere raises quality at the EPO. Thus:

    1. why enter the EPO national phase when your WO-ISA has already exposed your situation as hopeless

    2. why stump up the EPO fee for examination on the merits, when the search report has already revealed your position as hopeless

    3. why fight through examination on the merits, with a marginal position on validity, when the bulk of the costs hit at the stage of patent grant?

    4. why bother pursuing a marginal position on patentability, ex parte, when validity in inter partes proceedings the national courts, after issue, downstream of the EPO, hangs on the preponderance of evidence.

  • [Avatar for Michael Feigin, Esq., Patent Attorney]
    Michael Feigin, Esq., Patent Attorney
    June 29, 2011 03:37 pm

    None of this is any surprise.

    Paul makes a good point… the EPO is so much more expensive. You have to really mean it if you’re going to file there… plus, 15 claim limit, page limit, etc, or pay steep fees. If it costs so much, you’ll probably have better filings because it will exclude a lot of people who aren’t willing to spend the money. It depends if you’re goal for patents, as a country, is more to get the technology disclosed to the public, or more to make money for the government and big businesses that can afford it.

  • [Avatar for 4Mark]
    June 29, 2011 12:36 pm

    In reply to Morgan:

    1. One must be very careful to distinguish between the total cost of procuring patent rights in the 42 country EPO and the proportion of that cost represented by fees payable to the EPO.

    2. One must factor in that every EPO Decision to grant or refuse every patent application must be signed by a 3 member Examining Division, and they all carry the rsponsibility for error.

    3. Any Applicant that wants speed to issue can have it for the (PACE program) asking. Hardly anybody does though. That is exactly why the PACE program works so well.

  • [Avatar for Paul F. Morgan]
    Paul F. Morgan
    June 29, 2011 09:30 am

    TheEPO should be better quality, considering how very much more they charge than the U.S. PTO or JPO.

    I also wonder if their fees will have to increase even further in the future to cover all the fat early retirement pensions their employees will be getting as the ratio of retirees to employees increases?

    Also, does this quality test include [as it should] the respective number of years of patent application processing backlogs [examination and other final decision delays]?