This year's conference, entitled "The Future of the Intellectual Property Infrastructure in Europe", highlighted the role of the European Patent system as an integral part of the efforts to achieve the goal of transforming Europe into the most competitive knowledge-based economy by 2010. In the development of this system the EPO has a central role to play, not only within the framework of its exclusive responsibility - the European patent granting process - but also through the other pillars of the system, such as patent awareness and patent information.
More than 350 delegates from a large number of European countries attended the conference, which developed through three parallel sessions combined with hands-on workshops on epoline® and esp@cenet, the EPO' online products.
Delegates discussed patent protection, patent costs reduction, transparency of the European patent system, the future of intellectual property in Europe, opportunities for SMEs and the need for an improved patent culture to support competitiveness and innovation.
Mr. Alain Pompidou highlighted the fact that Europe has the most dynamic regional patent system which allows companies to cover 31 countries and reach 500 million inhabitants by filing a single patent application with the EPO. In 2005, the EPO expects to receive 190.000 patent applications and to grant some 53.000 European patents.
He also said that "patents provide the distribution network for innovation; they create a network from invention to innovation and from innovation to the market place" referring to the fact that patents are an efficient mechanism for dissemination and transformation of knowledge into a tradable asset, which favours the creation of the knowledge driven economy.
Mr. Pompidou also said that Europe lacks a harmonized central patent court, and underlined the need to establish a central, European court for patents: "Such a court will not only allow the reduction of procedural fees, but also significantly enhance the legal security for patent owners when exploiting their patents. Overall it will diminish the financial burden especially for SMEs".
The EPO is committed to lending its full support to the implementation of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development of the EU (FP7) by promoting IP awareness amongst European enterprises, building a patent culture, improving access to patent information and facilitating the efficient exploitation of the FP7 project results.