The European Patent Office (EPO) Publishes Grounds for its Decision to Refuse Two Patent Applications Naming a Machine as Inventor
EPO – Applications refused
The EPO has published on 27 January 2020 its decision setting out the reasons for its recent refusal of two European patent applications in which an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system was designated as the inventor.
Filed by an individual in autumn 2018, the applications EP 18 275 163 and EP 18 275 174 were refused by the EPO following oral proceedings with the applicant in November 2019, on the grounds that they do not meet the legal requirement of the European Patent Convention (EPC) that an inventor designated in the application has to be a human being, and not a machine.
The machine called “DABUS”
In both applications, the machine called “DABUS”, which is described as “a type of connectionist artificial intelligence”, is named as the inventor. The applicant stated that he had acquired the right to the European patent from the inventor by being its successor in title, arguing that as the machine’s owner, he was assigned any intellectual property rights created by this machine.
In its decisions, the EPO considered that the interpretation of the legal framework of the European patent system leads to the conclusion that the inventor designated in a European patent must be a natural person. The Office further noted that the understanding of the term inventor as referring to a natural person appears to be an internationally applicable standard and that various national courts have issued decisions to this effect.
Moreover, the designation of an inventor is mandatory as it bears a series of legal consequences, notably to ensure that the designated inventor is the legitimate one and that he or she can benefit from rights linked to this status. To exercise these rights, the inventor must have a legal personality that AI systems or machines do not enjoy.
Finally, giving a name to a machine is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the EPC mentioned above.
The decisions to refuse the two patent applications can be appealed by the applicant within two months at the EPO’s independent judiciary, the Boards of Appeal.
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A delegation from Cambodia visits the EPO
A delegation from Cambodia led by Senior Minister of Industry and Handicraft Cham Prasidh visited the EPO on 31 October 2019 to meet with a team from the EPO headed by President António Campinos.
President Campinos and Senior Minister Cham reviewed the implementation so far of the EPO’s validation agreement with Cambodia. Under the agreement, which entered into force on 1 March 2018, applicants to the EPO can request validation of their European patent applications and European patents in the country. Cambodia was the first Asian country to recognise European patents on its territory.
“We are proud of the joint work done and results achieved over the past two years,” said EPO President Campinos. “Cambodia is one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia and now belongs to the group of countries with a solid global patenting strategy. The strengthening of Cambodia’s patent system through the validation agreement with the EPO is good for the local economy. For European companies, it provides further business and investment opportunities by extending the geographic coverage of their European patents to Cambodia.”
Senior Minister Cham said: “The validation system is a part of our long-term strategy to attract foreign investment. It is also an important means to boost national innovation. The validation system offers a shortcut for inventors to have their invention, already patented by the EPO, validated and protected almost immediately. Investors interested in using Cambodia as a springboard for exporting their products to privileged markets will benefit from seeking protection for their invention in Cambodia.”
Bilateral co-operation agreement
During the meeting, the EPO and Cambodia also signed a bilateral co-operation agreement for 2020. It aims at strengthening the capacity of the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft to administer patents and to promote an IP and patent culture in the country. Under the agreement, EPO experts will train staff at the Ministry, and a particular focus will be put on increasing understanding of the usefulness of patent information for universities and small businesses. A series of workshops will also be held to explain the functioning of the patent system to national stakeholders.
Patent applications in Cambodia
Cambodia has so far received 85 patent applications in 2019 (up from 67 in 2018), the majority of them being foreign applications. The Patent Cooperation Treaty entered into force in Cambodia in December 2016. The number of European patent applications for which a validation fee has been paid for Cambodia has risen to more than 60 in the past month alone.
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Agreement between Brazil and Europe
Memorandum of Understanding – Enhanced Technical and Strategic Partnership
Brazilian PTO and the European Patent Office (EPO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on an Enhanced Technical and Strategic Partnership on Tuesday, November 26th, aiming to improve cooperation between Brazil and Europe in the area of patents. The agreement was signed by BrPTO President Claudio Vilar Furtado and EPO President Antonio Campinos at the Institute’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.
BrPTO’s president Claudio Vilar Furtado stressed the importance of the agreement to stimulate investment in innovation and industrial property, focusing on the generation of new patents, especially in partnership.
– In this agreement between BrPTO and EPO, Brazilians and Europeans are united so that patents are a central element of a business environment that drives innovation – said the president of BrPTO.
The agreement between the EPO and the largest patent office in Latin America aims to strengthen the patent system in Brazil and Europe to encourage innovation and economic development, as well as to promote trade and investment between companies. two regions.
– Brazil is an essential partner for the EPO and an important market for European companies – said EPO President Antonio Campinos, who added: – This agreement is a milestone in our cooperation and is proof of the economic importance of close ties between our regions. Cooperation aims to ensure efficient patent examination and the granting of high-quality patents. This will benefit local innovative agents and international patent applicants, who can increasingly expect similar conditions to protect their inventions around the world.
Memorandum of Understanding – Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH)
During the ceremony, both offices also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to renew their Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot program. The new PPH, effective December 1st, will be open to patent applications in all technology fields.
In relation to the enhanced technical and strategic partnership agreement, BrPTO and EPO will cooperate in strengthening local capacity to search and analyze patent applications by training and discussing best practices, sharing tools and exchanging databases. patent data. In addition, by examining patent applications corresponding to applications already processed by the EPO, BrPTO will leverage the search reports in its own review process to further enhance quality and efficiency, freeing up resources to support local innovation. The agreement’s activities will be based on the two-year work plan agreed between the two institutions.
Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and its trade with Europe accounts for over one third of the total European Union (EU) trade with the region. The EU is also the largest foreign investor in Brazil, with investments in various sectors of the Brazilian economy.
Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)
At their annual meeting in Suzhou on 12 November 2019, EPO President António Campinos and the Commissioner of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), Shen Changyu, agreed to enhance their bilateral co-operation in the framework of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The aim is to give patent applicants filing an international patent application in English at the CNIPA as Receiving Office the choice to opt for the EPO as their International Searching Authority (ISA).
It is expected that this new option will be offered in the course of next year, and be implemented as a two-year pilot programme.
EPO AND CNPIA
CNIPA Commissioner Dr. Shen Changyu said: “The EPO and CNIPA are comprehensive strategic partners. For more than 30 years, the two offices have maintained a long-term close co-operative relationship. The fruitful cooperation results greatly benefited users and the public both in Europe and China. The two offices reached consensus on the designation of EPO as an ISA of the PCT international patent application in English filed at the CNIPA as Receiving Office. It will further benefit PCT applicants in China and even around the world. It is also a solid step for China to further enhance its international co-operation on IP protection”.
“This is a significant step forward in our strategic co-operation with China in the area of patents,” said EPO President Campinos. “The EPO is truly honoured by this sign of trust put in its PCT products, and we are committed to delivering the best possible services to patent applicants from China and around the world. This development reflects the longstanding and close bilateral relations with CNIPA, a co-operation which benefits not only our offices, but also companies and inventors seeking to protect their inventions in international markets.”
For Chinese applicants, this step will offer an additional option to optimise their international patent strategy, especially when considering protection in Europe. As a result, Chinese users interested in accelerating the prosecution of their applications will, by selecting the EPO as their ISA, gain up to one year by entering into the European phase earlier and getting direct examination of their files, without the need for a European supplementary search.
EPO-CNIPA co-operation, comparative study on computer-implemented inventions
Bilateral co-operation between the EPO and CNIPA dates back more than 30 years to the signing of a first memorandum of understanding between the two patent offices in 1985. In 2017 the EPO and Chinese office elevated their co-operation to a comprehensive strategic partnership, the first such agreement between two major patent offices.
In recent years, technology related to computer-Implemented inventions (CII) has evolved rapidly, and CII-related patent applications have increased significantly. National IP offices and patent applicants around the world face new challenges as these technologies play a larger role in other areas of innovation. In response to these challenges, CNIPA and the EPO worked together to produce a joint study outlining the similarities and differences of examination practices specific to software-related inventions. The heads of the EPO and CNIPA launched this joint report at a public IP event in Nanjing on Monday. The findings are expected to provide practical guidance to applicants about what to expect when filing CII applications at the two offices.
CNIPA received more than 1.5 million applications for invention patents in 2018. China is now the fifth most active country of origin for European patent applications, with strong growth from Chinese applicants at the EPO in recent years (+8.8% in 2018).
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Agreement between Mexico and EPO
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – Reinforced Partnership
The EPO has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Reinforced Partnership with the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI), further strengthening the longstanding co-operation between Europe and Mexico in the area of patents. The MoU was signed on 4 November 2019 in Mexico City by EPO President António Campinos and IMPI Director General Juan Lozano.
“Mexico is a very important partner for us, and our offices have already worked together to support innovation for 25 years” said EPO President Campinos. “Through our joint projects on the Cooperative Patent Classification, the EPO’s online patent search tool EPOQUE Net, comprehensive data exchange and judicial training we have brought our patenting procedures and work more closely in line. We are now entering a new phase in our co-operation, extending it to more strategic areas, with a view to making our patent systems as efficient, user-friendly and relevant as possible for innovators in both regions.”
The IMPI Director General Juan Lozano underlined the importance of the strategic alliance with the EPO to enhance the use of Mexican resources dedicated to the examination of national patents, as well as to accelerate applications previously examined by EPO, issuing “more patents, faster, as well as reducing the backlog”.
He said that the MoU will promote the exchange of information and good practices, and the Institute will be able to benefit from training, certification, tools and technical support provided by the EPO in a framework of collaboration.
Through the Reinforced Partnership, the EPO and IMPI will join forces to develop a number of activities aimed at increasing efficiency, timeliness and quality of the patent grant process with a view to promoting investment and technology transfer between Europe and Mexico. The EPO will support IMPI in strengthening search and examination in fast-growing and emerging technology fields such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. At the same time, IMPI will make effective use of EPO work products, tools and standards to ensure a high quality, timely and efficient examination of both national first and second filings.
According to figures from the World Bank and the European Commission, Mexico is the 11th largest economy in the world (EUR 2.2 trillion) with a strong focus on manufacturing and a population of almost 130 million. The country has strong macroeconomic institutions, and is open to trade and private investment. The EU is Mexico’s second-biggest export market after the United States.
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By José Santacroce, Partner, and Head of Patent Department
EPO and INPI co-operation
The European Patent Office (EPO) and the National Institute of Industrial Property of Brazil (INPI) have agreed to work towards enhancing their co-operation. EPO President António Campinos and Claudio Vilar Furtado, President of INPI, signed on 22 July 2019 a Joint Statement in this direction following a bi-lateral consultation that formed part of a series of meetings between the EPO and IP offices from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. They also signed an agreement renewing the INPI’s access to EPOQUE Net, the EPO’s dedicated patent searching tool that contains more than 1.3 billion database entries.
Memorandum of Understanding
In their Joint Statement, the two Heads of Office agreed to work together towards a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) establishing a pilot project aimed at strengthening the INPI’s capacity for searching and examining patent applications.
President Campinos underlined the importance of co-operation with INPI: “I am pleased to sign this Joint Statement today. As traditionally, Brazil has been an important co-operation partner for the EPO in Latin America. The INPI has great expertise in the patent grant procedure, and with today’s signatures we are paving the way to a closer relationship between our offices, benefitting businesses from both regions.”
President Furtado echoed these sentiments: “The INPI welcomes with enthusiasm the enhancement of the partnership with the EPO. This is an essential step in the modernization of the Institute, a pillar of Brazilian development, to make it a world-class protagonist in industrial property”.
The co-operation between the EPO and Brazil’s INPI started in 2000 with a first technical co-operation project between both offices. This was followed by a number of bilateral agreements enhancing the co-operation to include granting the INPI access to EPOQUE Net (in 2005) and, in 2017, a joint Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot programme, that allows patent applicants to request accelerated treatment of their applications pending at the EPO and the INPI.
The EPO’s Strategic Plan recognizes that co-operation within Europe and with partners outside of the EPO’s member states has been a contributing factor to economic success. Therefore, as envisioned through several initiatives laid out in the Plan, the Office will continue to reinforce its network through agreements such as the ones concluded between the EPO and INPI.
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The European Patent Office (EPO), the European Committee of Standardization (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) have signed recently a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance the support they provide to industry and stakeholders in Europe and beyond in the field of standard-essential patents.
This is the first MoU between the organizations who will now work together to extend knowledge about the relationship between standardization and patents.
The purpose of this collaboration is to support inventors, innovators, researchers and industry on standard-essential patents (SEPs) in different areas of technology by promoting the dissemination of technical standards including relevant patented technologies. The agreement complements the established co-operation in this field between the EPO, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the European Commission.
“This agreement will help us to provide inventors and innovating businesses with information about the use of standards and patents in their field of activity,” said EPO President António Campinos. “Co-operation with standardization organizations is essential for tackling the challenges arising from the relationship between standards and patents. It will help ensure that the patent system continues to support a competitive innovation environment for businesses by delivering greater transparency on standard essential patents, as well as high patent quality.”
CEN and CENELEC Director General Elena Santiago Cid added: “CEN and CENELEC actively support the European innovation community and aim to efficiently integrate it in the European standardization system. With this objective, in 2018 we presented our Innovation Plan, which addresses the need to offer fast-track processes to bring research results to the market. The ability to reach the ambitions set out in the Plan will be enhanced by the collaboration with EPO. Together, we can support the European economy to be more competitive in the global knowledge-based economy”.
In view of the growing use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-related technologies in the more traditional technical fields, the ICT standards, as well as the patents considered essential for their implementation, are becoming increasingly important in this context.
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The European Patent Office (EPO) recently published its Annual Report 2018.
The main statistics and trends are highlighted below.
European patent applications continued to grow in 2018, reaching 174 317 applications, that is +4.6% with respect to last year.
Large enterprises filed 71% of the last year´s patent applications, SMEs, individual inventors: 20% and universities and public research organizations: 9%.
127 625 patents were granted last year (+20.8% with respect to 2017), 45% of them were granted to EPO member states, US: 24%, Japan: 17%, Korea: 5% and China: 4%.
The opposition rate in 2018 was 3.2%; the decisions in opposition cases were as follows: patent revoked: 27%, patent maintained in amended form: 42% and patent maintained as granted: 31%.
The top 10 countries with the most European patent applications in 2018 were the following:
- US 43 612 (25%)
- Germany 26 734 (15%)
- Japan 22 615 (13%)
- France 10 317 (6%)
- China 9 401 (5%)
- Switzerland 7 927 (5%)
- Korea 7 296 (4%)
- Netherlands 7 140 (4%)
- Great Britain 5 736 (3%)
- Italy 4 399 (3%)
The top 20 applicants in 2018 were the following:
- Siemens 2493
- Huawei 2485
- Samsung 2449
- LG 2376
- United Technologies 1983
- Philips 1617
- Qualcomm 1593
- Ericsson 1472
- General Electric 1307
- Bosch 1286
- Sony 1278
- BASF 1256
- Intel 1057
- Johnson & Johnson 982
- Microsoft 975
- Canon 816
- Panasonic 815
- Valeo 784
- Alphabet 779
The top 10 fields of technology in 2018 were the following:
- Medical technology 13 795
- Digital communication 11 940
- Computer technology 11 718
- Electrical machinery, apparatus, energy 10 722
- Transport 9 039
- Measurement 8 744
- Pharmaceuticals 7 441
- Biotechnology 6 742
- Other special machines 6 379
- Organic chemistry 6 233
Source: http://www.epo.orgRead More
The European Patent Office (EPO) and the Licensing Executives Society International (LESI) have signed on 8 February 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral co-operation to help innovators make better use of the European patent system. The agreement was signed by EPO President António Campinos and LESI President François Painchaud on the occasion of LESI’s recent Winter Planning Meeting in Miami, Florida.
This enhanced co-operation will enable the EPO and LESI to extend the reach of joint activities for stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, industry representatives, technology transfer experts, publicly funded research organizations, IP advisors, innovation centers, user associations, IP offices and government policy makers.
The Memorandum of Understanding between both partners will remain in effect for a period of five years and extends the successful history of co-operation between the EPO and LESI.
“The main goal of our agreement is to enable current and future innovators to make better use of the patent system by overcoming barriers such as lack of knowledge about IP and commercialization options,” commented EPO President António Campinos. “This will help innovators see the business opportunities that IP can create.”
The co-operation aims to enhance the visibility of intellectual property and its protection, transfer and commercialization, foster networking among interested parties, lower the entry barriers for participants from emerging countries, and create favourable conditions, where applicable, for the protection, transfer and best use of technology.
EPO and USPTO agree to formalize bilateral co-operation framework
During his mission to the United States President Campinos also met with Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and they agreed that their offices would investigate possible new measures for further enhancing bilateral co-operation.
Both Heads of Office addressed topics of mutual interest, such as the respective strategic plans of their offices and the rising importance of artificial intelligence, both in the patent granting process and as the subject-matter of patent applications. Their talks also covered ongoing activities in the Trilateral co-operation between the EPO, Japan Patent Office, and USPTO as well as the co-operation within the IP5 (the five largest intellectual property offices in the world), and the close co-operation in classification via the Cooperative Patent Classification.
Meeting US partners and stakeholders
During the visit, President Campinos also engaged with many key US partners and stakeholders, including the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel (ACPC) and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). In these meetings the EPO President provided insights into the Office’s strategic plan and vision for the coming years, and invited patent system users to contribute to the EPO’s corresponding public consultation.
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