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Annual Technical Report 2006 on Patent Information Activities submitted by EPO (SCIT/ATR/PI/2006/EP)

Where URLs are requested below, it is preferred that either URLs which are likely to remain stable over time (three years or more) are provided, or home (main) page URLs are provided with a short explanation of how to access the corresponding information.

The term "patent" covers utility models and Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPCs). Offices which issue design patents should report their design patent information activities in their Annual Technical Reports on Industrial Design Information Activities.

I. Evolution of patent activities

In 2006, The EPO recorded about 210 400 requests for European patent, 7% more than recorded in 2005 (197 600).

Of these, 148 900 (+9%) were made by designating the EPO in international applications, and 61 500 (+1%) applications were filed directly under the European Patent Convention. Out of the total number of applications filed, 71% were made under the PCT (69% in 2005).

As a consequence of the ongoing increase in the number of PCT international applications, the number of applications entering the European phase also increased by 5% to reach 74 300 in 2006. With the European direct applications, the total number of patent applications entering the European patent procedure rose by 5% to 135 800 (128 700 in 2005).

The growth in filings was nevertheless different among the technical units of the IPC. The number of European applications in the field of Electric Communication Technique (H03, H04) is the highest with 14 900 applications (+4%). The units Organic chemistry (C07, A01N; 8 208; +14%), Macro-molecular compounds (C08; 3 718; +12%), Foodstuffs and tobacco (A41-A47; 1 573; +11%) show some of the largest increases over the previous year among those unit with large numbers of applications. Weapons and blasting (F41, F42, C06; 433; +12%) and Shaping I (B21-B23; 2 229; +10%) also recorded a substantial growth.

Six units registered fewer applications in 2006 than in 2005. Among these were Instruments III (G09-G12; 3 985; -5.5%) and Printing (B41-B44; 1 883; -5%) and Fermentation, sugar, skins (C12-C14; 3 923; -4%).

In 2006, 56% of the applications in the European patent procedure, were applied for in the leading 10 IPC classes (A61, H04, G06, H01, C07, G01, B60, C12, C08, F16). In these classes taken together, the number of applications increased by 6% over the previous year.

II. Matters concerning the generation, reproduction, distribution and use of primary and secondary sources of patent information

Publishing, printing, copying (main types of publications of the office in the field of patent information, etc.)

In 2006, the Quality Management System launched in 2005 was in place for the main key documentation processes and the benefits became visible, such as detection and correction of gaps and errors, leading to a higher documentation quality. The Global Patent Data Coverage report was published on the Internet in January and July.


Patent Applications:

In 2006 the EPO has published 126 600 patent applications broken down according to the 31 Technical units of the International Patent Classification (see Table 1 attached).

Since the opening, the EPO published the following number of patent applications (see Table 2 attached).


Granted Patents:

In 2006, the EPO granted 62 779 patents.
Since the opening, the EPO has granted the following number of patents (see Table 3 attached).


Publication services:

1. European publications API

The EPO applies WIPO standards extensively for electronic publication and patent information products. The relevant standards for the publication and for dissemination to end users of patent information are often different to those used for the exchange of raw patent data. This difference stems from the different underlying requirements of the users of exchange and end-user products.

Over the years there has been a great deal of progress in harmonising the exchange formats used by patent offices, and experience has shown that the similar data transformations from one WIPO standard to another are used time and again when creating different patent information and publication services. As a result, the Publication department has over time grouped the various electronic publications utilities that we use into a coherent structure that enables us to re-use elements with minimal effort. This framework is described in more detail below, and at its core lies a set of Java based utilities that are packaged together as an Application Programming Interface (API). This Java based API offers a wide range of commonly used functionality and is heavily based upon open source frameworks such as those available from the Apache foundation (www.apache.org)


2. European Publication Server

The European Publication Server became operational on 1 January 2005 and - in line with the decision of the President of the Office dated 22 December 2004 - has been the official medium for publication of all kinds of European patent documents since 1 April 2005.

A very simple interface allows users to view and download the documents from the date of publication across a secure connection on the internet. All the different types of documents (A1/A2/A3/B1/B2 and corresponding correction documents A8/A9/B8/B9) can be accessed via their application numbers, publication numbers, IPC classification symbols and the dates of publication.

Users can download documents published since 1 April 2005 in both PDF and SGML (2005) / XML (2006) formats. Documents published before 1 April 2005 are made available in the best available format(s).

The technical platform underlying the European Publication Server is a web application that was designed with one main task in mind: to facilitate the publication of patent documents via the internet or an intranet. It is a web application and makes extensive use of well known Java based open source technologies which are complemented by specific Java software components that have been developed on behalf of the EPO by an external contractor. The European Publication Server additionally uses elements of the European Publication Application Programming Interface (API).

Access to the European Publication Server across the internet is free of charge at:
https://publications.european-patent-office.org

The European Publication Server is an up-to-date way of publishing the increasing number of European patent documents and - by offering the publications free of charge - is an important contribution to the "knowledge-based society" in Europe.

Improvements of the system in 2006 included the uploading of the complete back-file of European patent documents, the introduction of links to the Patentscope system of WIPO for non-republished Euro-PCT documents and the implementation of a web service access.

Next step should be the conversion of the backfile to ST.36 and the improvement of the infrastructure to prepare for the expected load increase.


3. ESPACE series

Thousands of patent information users around the world continue to enjoy the professional features offered by the ESPACE series. In combination with the MIMOSA User Software, the ESPACE products provide a wealth of complex search, display, archiving and document delivery functions that make the contents of the vast databases readily accessible and rapidly retrievable.

For providers of patent information ESPACE and MIMOSA are a simple, cost-effective way of making large numbers of documents available on a variety of possible platforms, including optical disks and across the internet, in a manner valued by professional users.

Production of the wide range of existing ESPACE series, not only by the EPO, continued during 2005. It was joined by a new product at beginning of the year, ESPACE ACCESS EPC. This new series is an important tool for all users of the European patent system, containing the bibliographic data and English language abstracts of patent publications of almost all EPC member states since 1990.

The following products are currently in production:

EPO series:

ESPACE EP, ESPACE FIRST, ESPACE ACCESS EP-A, ESPACE ACCESS EP-B, ESPACE BULLETIN, ESPACE LEGAL, ESPACE ACCESS EPC, ESPACE WORLD

National series member states:

ESPACE AT, ESPACE BNL, ESPACE CH, ESPACE DK, ESPACE ES, ESPACE Fl, ESPACE GR, ESPACE IE, ESPACE IT, ESPACE MC, ESPACE PT, ESPACE SI, ESPACE UK, ESPACE PRECES Access, ESPACE PRECES

National series non-member states:

ESPACE ASEANPAT, ESPACE ID, ESPACE MY, ESPACE PH, ESPACE TH, ESPACE OAPI, ESPACE DOPALES

and other series from Australia, Canada, Commonwealth of Independent States, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, Russia.

Commercial providers:

Patent Gazette of the German Patent and Trademark Office, US Patent Images and other series.

In 2006 the ESPACE series produced by the EPO were adapted to the use of the new IPC 8. Furthermore additional features were introduced in some of these series like:
-citations and new DTD version 1.1 in week 32/2006 ( ESPACE EP)
-Master classification database import in I. Qu. 2006 and increment in III. Qu. 2006, (ESPACE ACCESS)
-prototype with claims for old B documents extracted from DPMA data (ESPACE ACCESS B)
-change in disc structure to allow a full year archive production on a single disc for 2005: (ESPACE FIRST)

In 2007 the main EPO ESPACE Series have to be adapted to make them EPC2000 compliant (ESPACE EP, BULLETIN, ACCESS, ACCESS B).

ESPACE series are stand-alone products used primarily by external users around the world.

The EPO’s Mission Statement calls for it to remain a global leader in the provision of patent information. ESPACE products and the accompanying MIMOSA Software play a crucial role in this. They enable the Office to disseminate patent information products easily and cheaply to other patent offices, their libraries and to the general public.

Ongoing development of the MIMOSA Software ensures that ESPACE products around the world remain compatible, thereby supporting their use as documentation exchange media.


4. ESPACE collections online

With the release of MIMOSA User Software version 5 in the middle of 2005, and the transition to GTI v. 5 database structure in MIMOSA Authoring, it is now possible to publish ESPACE collections on line without any additional effort.

The EPO decided to put most of its own ESPACE products on line for a test period during 2006 to gauge user reaction. Existing subscribers can access these ESPACE collections with the same MIMOSA User Software by means of a secure, encrypted https: connection across the internet.

ESPACE ACCESS, ACCESS EP-B, BULLETIN and EP series were available on line during the test period.

The user registration and administration module, and the MIMOSA User Software need to be further improved before the test can be held under real production conditions. This is planned for beginning of 2007.

After completion and acceptance of these developments the EPO will be also put ESPACE ACCESS EPC on line, as it complements perfectly the other ACCESS series.


5. MIMOSA

The two components of MIMOSA provide a software package for content providers to author ESPACE series and the user software for accessing the ESPACE series. This ensures compatibility between products worldwide and supports their use in documentation exchange.

In addition to patent information products of the EPO, the MIMOSA software has been successfully used to create compatible intellectual property information products in the framework of EPO co-operation activities in member states (AT, CH, LI, BE, NL, LU, DK, ES, FI, GR, IE, IT, MC, PT, SI, UK, PL, RO, BG, HU) as well as by other patent offices, including Australia, the CIS, Canada, Cuba, Japan, Korea, Russia, Taiwan and the United States. The authoring software is also used by commercial data providers to prepare patent information products, e.g. Bundesdruckerei, MicroPatent.


MIMOSA Authoring Software

MIMOSA Authoring Software has become the de facto worldwide standard for the publication of patent information on optical media. In the course of 2005, it was brought up to date by modifying it to handle XML data (according to WIPO St. 36) and the new IPC 8 classification symbols introduced in January 2006.

At present there are two versions of MIMOSA Authoring Software in use:

•version 3.2
(based on GTI v. 3 database structure, running under HP and SUN UNIX)
•version 5
(based on GTI v. 5 database structure, running under MS Windows. UNIX and LINUX versions were added during 2006).

For the production of most national ESPACE series, the performance and capacity
of MIMOSA Authoring Software version 3.2 is still sufficient. It was adapted to handle IPC 8 classification symbols introduced in January 2006. However, it will not be modified to handle XML input; changing the publication format to XML therefore necessitates a move to MIMOSA Authoring Software version 5.

Workshops and training were organised with interested national patent offices and patent information centres to address issues relating to the use of MIMOSA authoring for the preparation of patent information services (RO, EAPO, RU, CL, GR, TW, HU, BY, KR, MX, CA, JP)

The EPO strives to base further developments of MIMOSA software on standard programming concepts like JAVA as far as possible and to increase modularisation which would facilitate the re-use of modules. Many production steps were combined under the "JTASK" graphical user interface and can now be configured just by checking boxes or editing the default settings. Also new modules to manually correct wrong or missing bibliographic data elements or to automatically enrich bibliographic data by downloading data through the OPS interface of ep@cenet.

One of the first benefits has been in the use of GTI v. 5 in the EPTOS (EPOLOC), which allows use of MIMOSA or JViewer as interfaces to access big databases on a mainframe or ESPACE databases on optical discs, hard discs or across the internet/Intranet. This means that a single data preparation process can serve as the data resource for different distribution channels, such as ESPACE online products and a publication server.


MIMOSA User Software

The MIMOSA User Software is distributed free of charge with ESPACE products, on the ESPACE demo disc and via the MIMOSA website.

The latest version – labelled version 5 – was made available in mid-2005.

It contains a number of enhancements over the previous versions, including the ability to display, print and export XML data according to WIPO St. 36 and to access to GTI V5 databases across the internet / intranet. It has also been modified to handle IPC 8. Other improvements enable the MIMOSA User Software to offer completely transparent database consultation on a range of media, as well as even bigger databases.

Together with the ESPACE products, MIMOSA offers essential searching, archiving and document delivery tools. It permits full-text searching in a local environment through a single multi-lingual interface with a very complete range of features, as well as access to databases in an Intranet / LAN or internet environment.


6. MIMOSA website

The MIMOSA Website was developed to support the users of MIMOSA Authoring Software around the world (the Office is aware of users in Europe, Australia, the USA, Canada, Russia and Korea, among others).

Registered developers can download the latest version of the MIMOSA Authoring Software from the site. It also gives them a very practical way to upload configuration files for new ESPACE series they have created. They then obtain verification from the EPO’s contractor, which in turn makes them available for distribution to all MIMOSA users with future official releases of the MIMOSA User Software.

The MIMOSA User Software can also be downloaded from the website, together with the latest updates, including configuration files for new ESPACE products and software patches. A forum gives an opportunity for direct exchange of information between users. It is regularly checked by EPO experts and the EPO’s contractor to ensure that difficult questions raised by users get answered.

Update procedures, content management and the layout have been aligned to procedures being implemented for the EPO website in order to facilitate the transfer of the MIMOSA website to an EPO server. Advantages of the home-page are also to be found in the product registration offered, which enables the EPO to ensure proper version control and maintain a full product inventory.

Table1 Table2 Table3

III. Matters concerning abstracting, classifying, reclassifying and indexing of technical information contained in patent documents

Abstracting, reviewing, translating

The European Machine Translation Project (EMTP) saw the implementation of its first phase. An infrastructure was provided to fully support the initial set of language pairs and serve as basic platform for subsequent ones. Particular progress was made in collaboration with the Austrian, German and Swiss patent offices for the English <-> German language pair and with the Spanish office for English <-> Spanish.

Classification and reclassification activities; Classification system used, e.g., International Patent Classification (IPC), other classification (please indicate whether or not patent documents are classified by your Office and, if so, which classification is used)

In 2006, almost 1 million circulations of patent documents to be classified were treated by EPO examiners as well as almost 18,000 NPL documents.

The Examiner Assistance Programme (EAP), in which external staff is employed to assist examiners with reclassification work, continued in The Hague and Munich.

111,100 incoming search files were pre-classified and routed to the directorates in 2006, 62,150 of which by directorate classification and the others by examiners. 9,600 incoming documents were classified for the PAOC cluster. 1,900 documents were deep-indexed in the field of laminates.

A major issue for the Classification Board in 2006 was the harmonisation of ECLA with the IPC to support the introduction of the 2006 IPC reform.

The Documentation Quality Board (DQB) participated in classification quality monitoring on new incoming patent documents. Directorate Quality Management Support (DQMS) took over the responsibility for classification audit formerly ensured by DQB, but members of the DQB stayed involved in the area by supporting DQMS in the relative pilot projects.

In 2006, 589 requests for revision of the internal classification (DOC14) were received, resulting in 9,131 changes to ECLA. The number of REPA-changes was about 2,700.

The IPC Master Classification Database (MCD) was ready to receive front-file IPC data in early 2006 and about 30 countries were included in the data flow at the end of the year. The EPO hosted the first session of the IPC Advanced Level Subcommittee (ALS) and members of Directorate Classification continued their activities in the framework of the IPC Working Group for the Core Level (IPC/WG).

11 new Harmony projects were started in 2006 and 8 Harmony projects were forwarded to and accepted by as IPC Advanced level revision projects by WIPO.

To accelerate classification harmonisation, the examiner exchange programme launched in 2005 resulted in various visits hosted by USPTO, JPO and EPO.

In the area of classification training, 157 examiners received the course "classification for classifiers" and 177 examiners participated in introductory classification training. 2 member state offices received an in-house training on ECLA, PL and HU, bringing the total number of countries participating in this programme, which was launched in 2002, to 13.

Bibliographic data and full-text processing

1 million full-text searchable patent documents were added to our databases, bringing the total number to 17.5 million. The most relevant change to the full-text search collection was the addition of not yet published patent applications in the framework of the early-OCR project launched late 2005. It made available to the examiners the OCR text of over 1000,000 PCT and FA applications via EPOQUE. 175,000 unpublished EP applications were also available as full-text.

For non-patent literature, 6 new full-text databases were added, increasing by 50% the number of NPL full-text records. New collections were introduced using SpecDocs, the repository of incoming collections, containing more than 1 million fully searchable records at the end of the year. The trend towards electronic publishing continued and subscriptions to print media dropped further. EVL passed the milestone of 5,000 magazine titles and held 5,020 titles end 2006. More non-magazine databases were made available in EVL as well. Following the growth of EVL and BNS collections, the E-Olit orders dropped further and 90% of the orders were fulfilled in less than 24 hours. A new tool called ScanThis was introduced for examiners to request inclusion of non-cited NPL in BNS. 1,440 documents were added to the collection using this route.

In the field of data management, over 4,2 million documents were added or enhanced in the bibliographic master database DOCDB, which now contains the bibliographic data for over 62 million documents. Quality was also improved by the more than 1,2 million corrections performed by the Front File Corrections team.

A major achievement in 2006 was the loading of Korean bibliographic data. There now exists an English title and abstract for each Korean application from 2001 onwards and an agreement for continued delivery of the front file is in place. Some older data has also been received and prepared for loading.

At the end of the reporting year, the EPO citation database REFI contained 70 million references related to 14 million applications or publications. Quality control and correction of the cited references is assured by the Citation Data Flow team, which in 2006 performed 240,000 manual corrections related to 6 million cited documents.

At the beginning of October 2006, the DOCDB/XML ST.36 exchange went live with the delivery of a complete back-file of DOCDB in XML being sent to national patent offices and commercial providers across the world. This delivery consisted of 25 GB of compressed data on 4 double-layer DVDs with over 60 million publications covered.

The DOCAREA rebuild has entered a consolidation phase in which the new features can now be deployed. One example is the propagation of the same family concept across all systems: DOCDB, EPOQUE, JViewer and esp@cenet®.

Two new projects have got well underway:

The Data Transfer Hub project aims at rationalising and improving the efficiency of data handling procedures for EPO's patent information resource by building up a state of the art technical solution for exchanging data and information with external partners.

The Data Flow Operations rebuild project aims at rebuilding the processes that handle incoming data flows from the national offices (both the existing flows and future ones through the Data Transfer Hub) enabling faster and more flexible processing of the data and quicker implementation of changes forced by input changes.

Finally, the second edition of the EPO Worldwide PATent STATistical database was released in September 2006 to the OECD Taskforce on Patent Statistics.

IV. Search file establishment and upkeep

10 million documents were loaded in BNS in 2006, bringing the total number of our digital library of facsimile documents to 71.2 million complete patent and non-patent documents. Load of PDF standard was in production environment allowed for the addition of new collections and replaced scanning of paper deliveries for some countries. A number of new acquisitions were made, like loading of older data and additions of new countries.

At the end of 2006, more than 85% of the paper search collection was requested to be destroyed and the Paperless project, implemented in 2001, is expected to be successfully completed at the end of 2007 when we will have moved to a full electronic collection. 22 million paper documents will have been treated in the framework of the project.

The EPODOC database holds bibliographical data and abstracts of more than 81 countries or organisations issuing patents and gives access to more than 57 million published patent applications. EPODOC being updated daily, a newly allocated classification code for example will be present in EPODOC the following day already.
EPODOC contains 21 million abstracts: 19.1 million in English, 1.1 million in French, 472,000 in German and 309,000 abstracts in other languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Dutch, and Romanian.

In the area of NPL databases, the most important academic databases such as IEEE, IEE, AIP (American Institute of Physics), IOP (Institute of Physics) and Elsevier have now been included in the database portfolio internally loaded in EPOQUE. Already since 2005, efforts concentrate on the loading of specific databases which are highly relevant in some smaller technical fields, 18 of which are already available in EPOQUE.

In addition to the normal daily updates procedure, EPODOC has been provided with a new special mechanism for massive update procedures. This new procedure proved very useful for the loading of IPC Reform data or for corrective data re-loading such as modifications to patent and application number formats.

A total of 18 databases were added to the EPOQUE collection in 2006.


Databases: Figures for bibliographic, full text and facsimile data:

110 (100 in 2005) different databases are available internally with a total of 331 million records, 22% more than in 2005.
Data concerning more than 57 million published patent documents are available in the EPO master patent database DOCDB.
20.3 million full-text searchable records: 17.5 million patent and 2.8 million non-patent literature articles can be searched and accessed by EPO examiners, a 15% increase compared to 2005.
71 million facsimile documents are available in the EPO digital library.

V. Activities in the field of computerized and other mechanized search systems

In 2006, a new structure “Information Management (IM)”, regrouping all automation services for the EPO, including the setting up and maintenance of information systems and the production and management of tools for the Office, was announced for 2007. IM is a merger of the former Principal Directorate Information Systems and PD Tools and Documentation. The former PD Tools and Documentation has now become PD Patent Grant Automation. In this report, we will still refer to the name used in 2006, PD Tools and Documentation.

The two basic pillars of the services of the new PD are the management of EPO's world-leading collection of technical documentation together with the extensive sets of automation tools that support the patent granting process. PD Patent Grant Automation is responsible for translating the strategic objectives of the Office by guiding the further evolution of these services and by accompanying the developments around the new examination and formalities workbench and the move towards a more integrated end-to-end functionality to the benefit of both internal and external users. At the same time, the growth in International data exchange and handling of the increasing amount of patent-related documentation, particularly from Asia, need to be balanced with ensuring that user expectations are met with efficient tools that improve the support of the patent granting process.

EPOQUE is the EPO’s search tool. The EPOQUE retrieval service is growing steadily in number of available databases as well as in number of records. By the end of 2006, more than 331 million records in 110 EPOQUE databases were fully searchable in the INTERNAL session.

In-house systems (online/offline)

Two new versions of SEA (Suite of Examiner Applications) were rolled out to examiners in March and October 2006, adding further functionalities in various applications.

The number of EPOQUE users rose by 5% in 2006 compared to 2005. 56% of the search activity in the EPO was done in EPODOC, 8.9% in full-text databases and 9.6% in the NPL databases.

An even more significant image of EPOQUE usage is given by the number of displayed documents which increased by 9% compared with the 2005 figure. Almost 366 million BNS pages were displayed in 2006.

EPOQUE World, used by the EPO Member States accessed via PATNET, saw major releases as well. The USPTO, JPO, WIPO, EAPO, Rospatent and patent offices of Canada, Ukraine and Australia have test access for 5 users now, with Croatia and Thailand showing interest in obtaining test access.

The EPOQUE back end search engine is being rebuilt and the first phase is ready for roll out. In 2006, extensive comparison tests were performed between the current EPOQUE search engine and the new EPO search engine kernel and millions of queries were tested. The latest tuned version allowed testing and accepting a 100% ready functional version as well as acceptance on the performance criteria, the documentation, implementation and stability criteria. This resulted in a first incremental roll-out early 2007.


Usage of the EPOQUE Viewer to display data

EPOQUE and BNS Main display increased by 9% in 2006
366 million pages were viewed in 2006
The number of connect hours in 2006 was 262,250
5,183 monthly users

External databases

Expenditure for searches carried out in external databases amounted to 2.5 million Euros in 2006, only 1% more than in 2005. The Joint Clusters Pure and Applied Organic Chemistry (PAOC), Biotechnology, Industrial Chemistry and Polymers continued to represent 98% of this expenditure.

Administrative management systems (e.g., register, legal status, statistics, administrative support, etc.)

In the area of examination procedure support, the IPC reform necessitated the upgrade of some tools used in the patenting procedure (CAESAR, CASEX and PrintTool) to cope with the new symbols in early 2006. Further changes to CAESAR, CASEX and CASEXPRIMA were required to assist examiners in creating Written Opinions for FA, TO and NO dossiers. For FA dossiers, both the Search Report and Written Opinion are directly printed in Paris by the SDMS/CPS system as a service to INPI.

Directorate Examination and Formalities (EF), known so far as Dama-P, joined the group of directorates in PD Patent Grant Automation under the new Information Management structure. Its role is to maintain and improve the key systems which provide end-to-end support for the patent granting business processes of the EPO. This includes administration of formalities work on all files from initial receipt through to file completion and the management, production and dispatch of all examiner actions. All examiners and formalities staff use these systems on a daily basis. The improvements implemented by EF are usually negotiated and specified by application managers appointed for that task who report directly to business management.

The PCT Receiving Office migration to Phoenix and the PIPS Rebuild, known under the project name MASAI (Main Administration Support for Activities in International Applications) were 2 major projects in 2006 in the area of procedural administration. Small transactions included the conversion from terminal-based transactions to browser applications made available with Madras roll-outs. The DPCT, POST and CORR transactions were dealt with in 2006.

The entry into force of EPC2000 by 13 December 2007 latest will have a major impact on many EPO systems and in particular the EPASYS system. Customer requirements were produced and analysed in 2006 to prepare detailed specifications for the development teams. The project will deliver the requirements in 3 phases.

In April 2006, close cooperation between EPOQUE team, CAESAR team(s) and TecNO resulted in the first Java version of CAESAR at the Swedish Patent Office in Stockholm in view of EPO's PCT partnership treaty.

In close cooperation with epoline (Datimtex team), a web service for SDMS called SIS (Search Information Service), providing the full search report and additional information to Datimtex in ST.36, was developed.

To prepare for EPC2000, technical specifications for rule changes impacting CAESAR, CASEX, SDMS and MUSE were gathered in 2006 for development in 2007.

Major developments on the EPODOS project were achieved. The core engine of EPODOS with regard to modelling examiner actions and data items during the various stages in the patent procedure was delivered according to plan in Q3/2006. Phase 2, the GUI design, continued in 2006 for delivery in early 2007.

EPODOS (Electronically Prepared and Organized DOSsier) is a single client application to replace and merge CAESAR and CASEX following the current working style and requirements of examiners working under BEST conditions. It will be released in separate modules after the introduction of EPC2000. The "Basic Module", replacing CASEX and CAESAR, will be rolled out after thorough testing and verification in a “Cellule de Suivi” in spring 2008. In 2009, the next module of EPODOS will introduce further examiner features and optimise the formalities processing of examiner actions like e.g. printing and coding.

Directorate Applied Research and Development conducts technical studies on examiners' tools and delivers advice and prototypes to facilitate the decision-making process. Main projects in 2006 included the testing of tools to allow a better understanding of chemical drawings. A protocol has been set up to analyse and recognise automatically such formulas. In the field of searching scientific units, a software for extracting relevant scientific numerical entities was customised for patent data and a protocol designed aiming at recognising figures and converting measurement units. A feasibility study on the ranking of search results was done with the aim to offer to the examiners the sorting of results in a customised way.

VI. Administration of the industrial property office library and information products and services available to the public (relating to facilities, e.g., for lodging applications, for assisting clients on searching procedures, for obtaining official publications and registry extracts)

Patent information services:

1.esp@cenet:

The EPO's esp@cenet has proved itself to be a successful entry level service in two senses: for newcomers to patent information, and for other users beginning a new search. The esp@cenet network comprises a number of interconnected servers located in national offices and at the EPO in The Hague. Users can access national data via any one of these servers, each national server is accessible from every other national server, and the esp@cenet worldwide database is accessible from all national servers and the EPO server in The Hague.

The esp@cenet worldwide database allows access to nearly 60 million records via simple intuitive search masks. Some 25 000 individual IP addresses are served daily. Users are supported by helpfiles (continuously updated), the online esp@cenet assistant (updated 4Q 2006) the esp@cenet forum (moderated daily) and the esp@cenet helpdesk.

Significant new features introduced in 2006 were:

• Forward citations
• Hyperlink to Register
• Translation engine

esp@cenet developments in the short-to-medium term are concentrated on measures to ensure availability and ease of maintenance of the back-end systems. These developments are resource intensive, but are vital for the continuation of the esp@cenet service against the background of database rebuild and implementation of a new search engine. However users will not perceive any new features from these measures per se.


2.Open Patent Services (OPS):

The Open Patent Services (OPS) offer an alternative way to access data available via the HTML based esp@cenet service, by providing a Web services application offering the same data in XML format.

Based upon the success of the original OPS service, which provided access to family, legal and bibliographic information, the EPO decided to extend this service with the target of making all the information currently available through the web application esp@cenet also available via OPS

In order to achieve the goal mentioned above, developments were started to allow delivery of facsimile images (BNS content), additional bibliographic fields (cited references, multiple publication levels arising from one single application, non-standardised values) and the full-text in character coded form (like "description" and "claims" tabs under esp@cenet, for EP and WO only) via the OPS.

Following the successful conclusion of the test phase and after a few necessary adjustments, the deployment of the new OPS environment providing facsimile images, additional bibliographic fields and full-text data took place in mid-September 2006.

It is clear that a potentially high volume of traffic can be originated by these new services. The EPO is therefore currently working at establishing a "fair use" policy to allow for monitoring and if necessary restrict access to the OPS system (and to esp@cenet). In particular, this policy will define the measures to be taken in order to:
- prevent abuse of the system by users systematically downloading large quantities of data to the detriment of other users, while giving an explanation of the alternative ways to obtain these data from the EPO
- provide transparency in the way the Office is offering access to these services by giving clear indications on what users can expect.


3.International Patent Documentation (INPADOC):

In 2006 again some new patent issuing authorities have been added to the patent family and legal status databases. Legal status is now available from New Zealand and patent family information from Iceland. So the number of countries is now 77 for the bibliographic data and 48 for legal status.

The common WIPO-EPO project aimed at making available data on PCT entry and non-entry into the national phase has made visible progress by mutual exchange of the information available on each site. The INPADOC legal status service now comprises this kind of information from 22 patent issuing authorities.

In the DOCDB XML (also known as bibliographic patent data resource) several new features have been included, among others the cited references from the REFI database. A complete backfile was created and distributed in week 39/2006.
For the Master Classification Database, all reclassifying efforts undertaken by the EPO and the co-operating patent offices, in particular the German, the Japanese and the Russian Patent Offices have been included in the database and distributed to more than 70 authorities. A new update schedule with quarterly updates has been developed.

VII. Matters concerning mutual exchange of patent documentation and information

International or regional cooperation in the exchange of machine-readable information, e.g., bibliographic data, abstract and/or full text information

Front Office further developed its contact with national patent offices and was involved in bilateral meetings, leading to further acquisition of data and new cooperation agreements. One of the priorities being the increase of efficiency and timeliness of data delivery, the delivery of data by FTP was promoted and is already used by 15 countries or organisations.


East Asian patent information services:

After the successful implementation of the Japanese language interface for esp@cenet in 2006, the next phase of the project was the development of a Japanese language version of the training tool for esp@cenet, the esp@cenet assistant. Furthermore 2007 will also see the implementation of a Japanese language interface for the European patent register.

In the framework of the co-operation between EPO and the Chinese Patent Office (SIPO) in the field of patent information, a group of specialists from SIPO visited the Vienna sub-office in late December 2006.

Co-operation with the Korean Patent Office (KIPO) in the field of patent information, meant it was possible for an expert from the Korean Patent Office to take part in an extended secondment to the EPO in Vienna, which started in late 2006, and is aim at supporting the activities of the Vienna Asian Information team with respect to Korean Patent Information.

Information exchange visits between Japanese Patent Office (JPO) and EPO patent information specialists continue as in the past, and in late April, two Japanese delegations visited the Vienna sub-office for training by Vienna staff on patent information issues.

In addition to the on-going enhancement of the Asian helpdesk activities on the internet (including FAQ pages, general information on Asian patent information and regular updates in Patent Information News), a further service was recently launched: the online forum on Asian patent information. This platform allows registered users to exchange online questions and information on these special topics.

Following the decision to move the date of the annual forum on Asian Patent Information issues, 'East meets West in Vienna' to the spring of 2007, a special training event took place in September 2006 called "Fit for Asia". It attracted more than 50 participants from all over the world.

VIII. Other relevant matters concerning education and training in, and promotion of, the use of patent information, including technical assistance to developing countries (please indicate URLs of web pages of the Office’s website wherever appropriate)

The EPO website:

The EPO website (www.european-patent-office.org), hosted and managed by the Webteam in Vienna, continues to grow in volume (currently more than 90 000 pages and some 4 GB of data), audience (some 14 000 distinct users per day) and popularity (some 140 million hits and over 1 TB of data downloaded in 2006).

A number of “microsites“ with specific content and a new homepage were introduced in 2003 to demonstrate the “look-and-feel“ planned for the new website. This action was so well received, that there were a total of 30 EPO microsites by the end of 2006, including one for the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (our governing body) and one dedicated to patent information.

The internet is a great medium for promoting patent information products and services, enhancing public patent awareness and introducing visitors to the concept of patentability. This should lead to an increase in the number of users of patent information and subsequently the patent system. The range of EPO services accessible via the website also includes esp@cenet and epoline, part of the website's evolution from a conventional website to a portal for patent information products and services.

The new website project is well under way and the planned launch date is now April 2007. The new website will not only have a new look and feel (aligned with the new EPO branding), it will also be run from a totally new technical platform (hardware and software) including a Content Management System (CMS). This will ultimately lead to convergence in the Office‘s various web-based services under the umbrella of the new website. At the same time, there will be a reorganisation of the staff resources devoted to EPO web services, clearly dividing content and presentation (web editing) from technical implementation (web publishing).

In the framework of the training activities on patent information products in Vienna, besides providing a whole range of classroom training seminars, we have continued to offer virtual classrooms or web seminars, where registered participants participate interactively via the internet in instructor-lead "live events". On the self-paced side, the e-learning modules accompanying the esp@cenet service, the so-called esp@cenet assistant saw a record of more than 350 000 training sessions carried out in 2006.


PATLIB2006 Conference:

The PATLIB2006 conference was held in Prague (Czech Republic) from 22 to 24 May 2006 and was co-organised with the Industrial Property Office of the Czech Republic.

370 participants from 47 countries, 29 of them being member states, exchanged experiences in the light of the conference slogan "PATLIBs serving innovation".
Furthermore, the conference hosted an exhibition with 18 exhibitors. The PATLIB2006 proceedings are available on the internet or on CD_ROM.

The PATLIB2007 conference will take place in Seville, Spain, from 14-16 May, 2007.

The PATLIB network currently has 328 members.

IX. Other general information related to the Office that is available on the Internet -- URLs of web pages of the Office’s website that:

X. Other relevant matters

The aim of the life sciences programme is to provide means for the treatment of biological data from filing to publication and to supply knowledge and scientific information in biotechnology. In 2006, about 6,200 patent applications containing biological sequences were treated. 39,000 sequence searches were performed in total, 90% of which by Joint Cluster Biotechnology. The search environment was consolidated concerning robustness and reliability.

Under the project name FELICS (Free European Life-science Information and Computational Services), the EBI will work with the Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics, the European Patent Office and the University of Cologne to maintain a number of key resources. The project is funded by the largest bioinformatics infrastructure award ever granted in biotechnology and falls under the "Research Infrastructures" portion of the EU's Sixth Framework Program. Further progress was made at trilateral level.

Further information on EPO data issues can be obtained from DOCHELP@EPO.ORG.

 


1.Classification is allotting one or more classification symbols (e.g., IPC symbols) to a patent application, either before or during search and examination, which symbols are then published with the patent application.

 

2.Preclassification is allotting an initial broad classification symbol (e.g., IPC class or subclass, or administrative unit) to a patent application, using human or automated means for internal administrative purposes (e.g., routing an application to the appropriate examiner).  Usually preclassification is applied by the administration of an office.

 

3.Reclassification is the reconsideration and usually the replacement of one or more previously allotted classification symbols to a patent document, following a revision and the entry into force of a new version of the Classification system (e.g., the IPC).  The new symbols are available on patent databases.