At their annual meeting in Suzhou today, EPO President António Campinos and the Commissioner of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), Shen Changyu, agreed to enhance their bilateral co-operation in the framework of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The aim is to give patent applicants filing an international patent application in English at the CNIPA as Receiving Office the choice to opt for the EPO as their International Searching Authority (ISA).
It is expected that this new option will be offered in the course of next year, and be implemented as a two-year pilot programme.
CNIPA Commissioner Dr Shen Changyu said: "The EPO and CNIPA are comprehensive strategic partners. For more than 30 years, the two offices have maintained a long-term close co-operative relationship. The fruitful cooperation results greatly benefited users and the public both in Europe and China. The two offices reached consensus on the designation of EPO as an ISA of the PCT international patent application in English filed at the CNIPA as Receiving Office. It will further benefit PCT applicants in China and even around the world. It is also a solid step for China to further enhance its international co-operation on IP protection".
"This is a significant step forward in our strategic co-operation with China in the area of patents," said EPO President Campinos. "The EPO is truly honoured by this sign of trust put in its PCT products, and we are committed to delivering the best possible services to patent applicants from China and around the world. This development reflects the longstanding and close bilateral relations with CNIPA, a co-operation which benefits not only our offices, but also companies and inventors seeking to protect their inventions in international markets."
For Chinese applicants, this step will offer an additional option to optimise their international patent strategy, especially when considering protection in Europe. As a result, Chinese users interested in accelerating the prosecution of their applications will, by selecting the EPO as their ISA, gain up to one year by entering into the European phase earlier and getting direct examination of their files, without the need for a European supplementary search.
EPO-CNIPA co-operation, comparative study on computer-implemented inventions
Bilateral co-operation between the EPO and CNIPA dates back more than 30 years to the signing of a first memorandum of understanding between the two patent offices in 1985. In 2017 the EPO and Chinese office elevated their co-operation to a comprehensive strategic partnership, the first such agreement between two major patent offices.
In recent years, technology related to computer-Implemented inventions (CII) has evolved rapidly, and CII-related patent applications have increased significantly. National IP offices and patent applicants around the world face new challenges as these technologies play a larger role in other areas of innovation. In response to these challenges, CNIPA and the EPO worked together to produce a joint study outlining the similarities and differences of examination practices specific to software-related inventions. The heads of the EPO and CNIPA launched this joint report at a public IP event in Nanjing on Monday. The findings are expected to provide practical guidance to applicants about what to expect when filing CII applications at the two offices.
CNIPA received more than 1.5 million applications for invention patents in 2018. China is now the fifth most active country of origin for European patent applications, with strong growth from Chinese applicants at the EPO in recent years (+8.8% in 2018).