On 23rd January 2012 the European Patent Office’s (EPO’s) new Economic and Scientific Advisory Board (ESAB) met for the first time in Munich. Made up of internationally recognised experts from Europe and beyond, the Board’s task is to advise the EPO on the impact of patents on the economy and society in general.
The ESAB is composed of representatives of companies, research establishments, universities and other institutions in Europe, China, Japan and the USA, with the members being familiar, in one way or another, with the European patent system. The mere fact that the Board has attracted the Rt. Hon. Prof. Sir Robin Jacob to its fold is, perhaps, a good endorsement of its credentials.
Despite being initiated and funded by the EPO, the Board is intended to be independent, providing policy recommendations, early warnings on sensitive issues, and guidance on studies that should be performed. In their inaugural meeting, the Board decided on the following topics to be addressed:
- the role and structure of EPO fees;
- the importance of patent quality; and
- the challenges to the functioning of the patent system from overlapping sets of patent rights, so-called “patent thickets”; patent thickets were also singled out for attention in the Hargreaves Review, commissioned in 2011 by the UK Government.
The topics will be assessed in terms of how they impact innovation by holding a series of workshops with stakeholders and users of the patent system, as well as with other expert organisations. New research and studies will then be commissioned when appropriate.
There would appear to be a great many topics to which the ESAB could turn their attention, and they will no doubt have their hands full for some time. We look forward to reading their first set of findings.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking before any action in reliance on it.