The European Patent Office (EPO) has now completed a major internal reorganization with a view to increasing the efficiency of its internal procedures. This reorganization will also have a positive impact on the promptness of the EPO’s actions and will lead to increased quality of the patents it grants and of the services it offers.

The reorganization has been made possible by the EPO’s constant investment in automation and the use of IT. Specifically, the two major changes to the EPO’s internal organization are:

a) The two former Directorates General, of patent examiners, on the one hand, and of support staff (called “formalities officers”), on the other have now been merged into a single Directorate General. This is expected to reduce the need for patent cases to be passed back and forth from one operational unit to the other. It is also expected to streamline the various steps of the EPO procedure by bringing them under a single management.
The work of this new single Directorate General will be divided into three new departments, mirroring the current and foreseeable future trends in the main patenting activity fields. The three new departments are:
• Information & communications technology;
• Healthcare, biotechnology & chemistry; and
• Mobility & mechatronics.

b) New, specialized Directorates have been created that will deal with the EPO’s post-grant opposition procedures. In line with the need for greater promptness and consistency of these procedures which has been expressed by users, be they patent owners, opponents or third parties, the creation of these specialized Directorates is expected to increase both the speed of opposition procedures and the uniformity of the decisions taken by the EPO units handling such procedures.

Lastly, and again with a view to strengthening its ties with the users even further, the EPO has now merged the user support and quality management teams into a single new unit. This has been done to allow the EPO to rely also on user feedback to continue improving its services. This unit will also draw on such user feedback when working on future EPO projects relating to procedures falling within their realm of competence.

The above organizational changes are objectively quite significant and clearly show the EPO’s willingness to listen to its users and do everything it can, within its remit, to meet their needs. Specifically, these changes clearly show that the EPO is striving to render its procedures more streamlined and efficient, so as to meet the need most voiced by users, which is that of promptness and speed in the EPO procedures. The changes appear to be very promising and their positive impact will surely be visible to the users in the very near future.

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ISSN 2531-4483