Representatives of national patent offices and patent information centres from 37 countries across Europe and beyond are gathering in Helsinki this week to explore how to improve services to companies, universities, and inventors in support of innovation.
The 27th edition of the annual conference of Europe’s patent information centres (PATLIB centres) is organised jointly by the EPO and the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, with more than 200 participants attending.
“The EPO attaches great importance to supporting the PATLIB network, which serves both the public interest and the European patent system by fostering a favourable climate for innovation,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli opening the conference. “As the first point of contact for companies and inventors locally, the PATLIB centres play a crucial role in providing the most up-to-date information and services related to patents, and in promoting public awareness of IP among businesses and the public.”
In her opening remarks, Rauni Hagman, Director General of the Finnish Patent and Registration Office, said: “Although we come from various countries, we all have a common interest, patent information, which is valuable for both research and commercial purposes and, of course, for product development. Knowledge and information is the reason for all of us to be here today.”
The PATLIB network is made up of more than 300 regional patent information centres in the EPO member states. They act as local access points on patent and technology-related issues, and provide information to entrepreneurs, SMEs, individual inventors and students. They are very diverse in terms of size, service profile (ranging from classical library to sophisticated IP consultancy services) and host organisation (from universities and industry associations, such as chambers of commerce, to technology centres and national patent offices). The tools and services they provide help companies and inventors reach informed decisions, for example, about investments in R&D, filing of patent applications and gathering patent-related business intelligence in their field of activity. There are 11 PATLIB centres throughout Finland.
Unitary patent in the spotlight
During his visit to Helsinki, the EPO President met Jari Gustafsson, Permanent Secretary of the Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment, and representatives of major Finnish companies, including Nokia, KONE, Orion, UPN and Beneq. The industry speakers highly praised the quality of the examination work at the EPO and the progress made in the timely processing of their applications.
The President also gave interviews to Finnish business and technology media. Here the focus was strongly on the unitary patent and on developments in the European patent system.
In late January, Finland became the 9th country to ratify the Unified Patent Court (UPC) Agreement, which needs 13 ratifications (including France, Germany and the UK) to enter into force. The Finnish and European partners agreed that when the unitary patent arrives – hopefully at the beginning of 2017 – it will bring benefits to Finnish and other European companies, especially SMEs and universities, by offering more choice, enhanced legal certainty and simplified administration.
Co-operation with Finland
The EPO supports the PATLIB centres via the national IP offices as part of its co-operation with its 38 member states. This support aims at extending the range and quality of services offered to users by providing training and tools to PATLIB staff. The EPO and Finnish patent office co-operate closely, for example, by exchanging patent data in order to provide it to the public via the EPO’s free Espacenet database, or provide harmonised access to national and European legal status information via the Federated European Patent Register.
With 365 European patent applications per million inhabitants in 2015, Finland again ranked high (No.4) in the EPO’s list of top applicant countries per capita. The biggest fields of technology for Finnish companies and inventors last year were digital communication and computers. Finland joined the European Patent Organisation in 1996.