In July 2014, fellow Kat David published news of an initiative from the EPO to "to improve legal certainty on pending patent applications." The aims were:
- issuing search reports with written opinions within six months of filing,
- prioritising the completion of examination files over starting examination files, and
- expediting grants once a positive search opinion has been issued.
|More productivity -- but is it truly productive?|
Merpel has now seen draft performance results for examination for the first half of 2015 compared with the first half of 2014, and this strategy does indeed appear to have had an effect. Search actions are up 13% and final examiner actions (grants, withdrawals, refusals, PCT examinations, oppositions) are up 23%, with grants up a staggering 34%. These figures, particularly the increase in grants compared with everything else, do seem to suggest that the easy wins are being won, leaving a legacy of more complex examination work. Doubtless the EPO management will expect this to be done with no less productivity. In this regard, it is notable that the "days/examiner product" are already down 8%, which is fine if you are are just advancing to grant an already allowable case, but will be harder to sustain when you have to examine a case that is not clearly allowable and the applicant's arguments and amendments have to be considered.
It is not only these procedural tweaks that have led to the increased productivity. At the beginning of this year, the EPO announced a system whereby Examiners would be invited to take on non-examining projects under a system whereby, instead of their examination targets being adjusted downwards, they would instead receive a financial bonus in respect of the extra activities. Also, the invalidity and sick leave rules have been tightened.
So it is not surprising that examination products are up. It is however still unclear what is the need for this. Merpel has attempted with limited success to discern the financial position of the EPO and has called for more financial transparency. She still cannot see why the senior management of the EPO seems obsessed with increasing the flow of patent grants in the short term, whatever the later cost.
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