The European Patent
Office and its patent
Abstract: The European patent information policy of the
European Patent Organisation (EPO) derives from a 1988
Administrative Council of the EPO. The
intent of the policy is to improve
information for European
to encourage innovation
and to strengthen Europe's position on technical
with Japan and the USA.
markets a number of data products, such
including the services of lNPADOC,
which was integrated with the EPO in 1990.
available at cost to non-commercial organisations and at
market rates for commercial
The information is also
disseminated through European national patent offices,
with whom the EPO maintains a close cooperation.
The foundations for a European patent information policy
were laid in 1988 by a decision by the Administrative Council
of the European Patent Organisation (EPO). Aimed at facili-
tating access to patent information for European users, this
policy also identifies new areas for cooperation in informa-
tion dissemination between the national offices and the Euro-
pean Patent Office and, as well as providing a service to
European industry, will strengthen Europe's position consid-
erably with regard to the exchange of technical information
with Japan and the USA.
During the last year, an outline programme to implement
the patent information policy was approved and the Office
introduced new information products and put in place the
necessary organisational structures.
European patent information policy
The purpose of the European patent information policy is to
facilitate access to patent information by the European public
and industry, particularly small and medium-sized com-
panies, and to encourage innovation. Information is dissemi-
nated via the patent offices in the Contracting States and
non-commercial libraries working together with these of-
The European patent information industry that is al-
ready in place will be taken into account, and care will be
taken not to distort competition in the commercial sector.
Distribution of tasks
The national patent offices, which work in the language of the
countries where they are located, play a key role in dissemi-
nating information to users, especially to small and medium-
sized businesses, and their technically qualified staff
to offer users a quality service.
The EPO's task, therefore, is to collect data, build
bases from data already prepared or new data, and to produce
information products. By means of exchange agreements
with its partners worldwide, the EPO will endeavour
access to as many sources of data as possible in other coun-
for the benefit of
Online services will not, however, be made available to
2.2. Pricing policy and
The cost of supplying data to users outside the Office depends
on: (i) the nature of the data supplied (primary or added-
and (ii) the type of commercial product in question.
The Office makes the data available at cost price for non-
commercial uses and at market rates for commercial uses.
Patent information will be made available in accordance
with these pricing principles to users in any line of business,
anywhere, but there will be no exclusive agreements.
Reciprocity will, however, be a prerequisite, and countries
which do not allow European users comparable access cannot
expect to benefit from the arrangement.
The programme for implementing the patent information pol-
icy reflects the outcome of the talks held between the Presi-
dent of the Office and the individual Member States in the
first half of 1989. The talks were aimed at establishing the
Member States, and defining the steps to
be taken to implement the policy.
In December 1989 the Administrative Council approved
the first 12 projects and the funds required, which amounted
to DM 80 million over an initial five-year period.
The Electronic Library, Vol. 9, No. 6, December