Annual Review 2019

Quality and risk

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Decorative image - Deeper look at: Quality and risk

Our commitment to quality defines the EPO's products and services. But sustaining excellence in the long term is a journey. At the EPO that journey is inspired by our users and begins with our dedicated workforce of top scientific experts.

Career-long learning and a dynamic knowledge transfer network keep our staff up to date with the very latest legal and technical developments. Collaboration is not only enshrined in the EPO's three-person examining divisions, it is actively promoted at all levels of the organisation. In 2019 a promising Collaborative Quality Initiative pilot resulted in a quality increase in 28% of files and was developed into a SP2023 project at the end of the year.

But people are only part of the equation. Their ability to provide applicants with high legal certainty depends on their access to premium resources. The EPO has the world's largest prior art databases with over 1.5 billion technical records. In 2019 we continued to upgrade our increasingly AI-driven tools that help examiners find the most relevant prior art more effectively. Our ANSERA search tool, for instance, was enhanced with access to non-patent literature, resulting in a 20% increase in search report citations made using this tool.

2019 also saw major achievements in classification. Accurate, timely classification is the cornerstone of a high-quality patent granting process. We invested heavily in bringing our classification backlogs down and are now in a state where we are able to classify documents as they are coming in. This marks a first milestone in our classification activities under SP2023.

Timeliness is another inherent aspect of quality that saw major improvements in 2019. The time to grant for EP direct and PCT applications where the EPO was the International Search Authority fell by 4 months and 4.8 months respectively.

On top of these achievements, 2019 was also a year of transition. In June the EPO launched its first Strategic Plan (SP2023). The plan's third goal focuses entirely on delivering higher quality services and products more efficiently. A new SP2023 programme will address all aspects of quality from incoming applications and the patent grant process to opposition and publication.

Going forward, the EPO will also engage our users in an ongoing dialogue on quality. At our 2019 SACEPO Working Party on Quality meetings we began to forge a common understanding of patent quality and gather input to shape our user satisfaction surveys. Working closely with our member states and non-European national patent offices as well as our IP5 partners and international organisations on quality also remains a top priority.

All these initiatives reflect the EPO's enduring pledge to provide the very highest levels of quality. As we move forward with SP2023, our annual Quality Report will update you on our progress towards excellence.

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