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Patent process needs improvement, says advisory board

Problems with the European patenting process could be holding back innovation, warns the European Patent Office’s Economic and Scientific Advisory Board.

The board has issued a statement, in which it warns that lapses in patent quality, difficult patenting procedures and a problem with what it calls “patent thickets” are affecting Europe’s competitiveness. These concern were issued in a position paper, Recommendations for improving the patent system, based on workshops the European Patent Office held in 2012.

“Today there is widespread concern that patent quality is deteriorating and that low patent quality threatens the functioning of the whole system,” the position paper.

Patent quality refers to patenting procedures, information technology systems in patenting offices, and patenting standards. The board states that changes in the process are needed in the pre- and post-granting stages to ensure quality is maintained.

The board finds that the pre-granting stage needs to go more quickly and patent offices should be better at sharing information. Post-granting the board recommends that procedures for opposition and re-examination also be streamlined. The board also says that improving the efficiency and reducing the cost of litigation would improve patent quality.

The board’s statement addresses patent thickets, the situation where a dense set of intellectual property rights creates a challenging environment for commercialisation. It found that patent thickets are not “a root cause of problems” surrounding innovation.

But, the board notes, improving patent quality could make it easier to deal with patent thickets.