Last September, shortly after our bilateral meeting with the EPO, FICPI was invited to nominate to a number of members to join the EPO’s Standing Advisory Committee (SACEPO). 

The invitation letter read:

In acknowledgement of your association’s expertise in the IP field and FICPI’s recent contributions, within the two SACEPO Working Parties on Quality and on e-Patent Services, I am pleased to invite FICPI to become involved in both the main SACEPO and the 5 SACEPO Working Parties, for the three-year term of office commencing on 1 January 2021.”

This marks a significant departure in the 42-year history of the main SACEPO, which traditionally has only had organisational representatives from epi (representing the European Patent Profession) and BusinessEurope (representing industry).  Various ad personam members have been appointed over the years, including several FICPI members, but never representatives of other organisations.

This invitation is great achievement for FICPI, which has lobbied for many years for a place on SACEPO, sensing that the views of the independent IP sector, with its wealth of practical experience, and, most especially, its traditional clientele of small and medium sized enterprises (whose needs and concerns for the world’s IP systems are often notably different from the interests of “big industry”) needed stronger, more focussed representation. 

We understand this broadening of representation is part of the EPO’s Strategic Plan 2021-2023, and in particular Goal 3, which is “Deliver high-quality products and services efficiently” and Key Initiative 2 “Improve Quality”.  The description of this key initiative goes into further detail:

To continue to develop an effective IP system, the Office needs to have a clear understanding of the needs of its users and stakeholders, particularly in the field of quality. In the future, the Office therefore intends to engage more closely with its users, via its Standing Advisory Committee (SACEPO) and its various sub-groups ...

SACEPO

The EPO describes SACEPO on its website as: 

As the EPO's main advisory body, SACEPO is consulted on all major issues relating to the development of the European patent system. These can range from broad European and international reforms - such as introduction of the Unitary Patent, reform of the EPO boards of appeal, revision of the EPC, PCT reform and substantive patent law harmonisation - to more practical questions concerning the European patent grant procedure, such as changes to the EPC Implementing Regulations, EPO fee policy, revision of the Guidelines for Examination, and other important projects such as Early Certainty from Search and Examination.

“Regular consultation of SACEPO ensures that proposed changes to European patent law and practice are seen from the perspective of the users and debated in a thorough and balanced way prior to implementation. Its functions are of purely advisory nature.

As well as the main SACEPO, there are five smaller working groups, set up in recent years:

  • the Working Party on Quality concerns itself with quality matters in the patent granting process, providing feedback on new initiatives and the EPO's annual quality report. As part of the expansion, geographical branches of this committee have been set up to obtain a global view of the EPO’s quality, and FICPI is uniquely well placed to contribute to this, given the global nature of its community. 
  • the Working Party on e-Patent-Process focuses on operational matters relating to the EPO's e-business projects, whether concerning electronic aspects of the grant procedure or customer services in the patent-information field. 
  • the Working Party on Rules and the Working Party on Guidelines are consulted, respectively, on proposed changes to the EPC Implementing Regulations and on the annual revision of the Guidelines for Examination.
  • the Working Party on Patent Documentation and Information provides members with updates on the EPO's products, services and future projects in the field of patent information.

FICPI Members of SACEPO

The following FICPI Officers and members have now heard from the EPO that their nominations have been accepted and look forward to contributing to the EPO’s work and to representing FICPI’s views in this process.

Main SACEPO 

SACEPO Working Party on e-Patent-Process

SACEPO Sub-Committee on Patent Documentation and Information

SACEPO Working Party on Rules 

SACEPO Working Party on Guidelines

SACEPO Working Party on Quality

FICPI’s view and involvement and future work

FICPI’s SACEPO representatives will work primarily with the European Patent Study Group (CET4) on issues as they arise, as well as with the CET Executive and Bureau, when needed.  Reports and information on the meetings will be shared with the membership via the FICPI website and newsletter.

Next steps 

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