The European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) have agreed to work closely together by facilitating the EPO use of IEC’s standardisation documents in all phases of its patenting process. The agreement sets another milestone for co-operation between the EPO and Standards Development Organisations (SDOs) to ensure greater legal certainty for patents granted by the EPO.
The agreement is based on the fact that IEC does not accept or allow the use of non-disclosure agreements in the standardisation work in which it is involved, alone or with other organisations, including informal discussions, input contributions and working documents. With this accord, EPO patent examiners will be able to full-text search IEC documents using the same process and tools as they use to search EPO’s own patent collections.
“Thanks to this co-operation the examination of the patentability of inventions in a variety of technical fields is expected to yield even better results. This represents a significant contribution to securing quality and legal certainty of patents processed by the EPO,” said Raimund Lutz, the EPO’s Vice-President for Legal and International Affairs.
The IEC is the world’s leading organisation for the preparation and publication of voluntary, consensus-based international standards for the millions of devices and systems that use or produce electricity and contain electronics, collectively known as “electrotechnology”. The organisation brings together 163 countries and has close to 7 000 standards in its library.
The IEC together with the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) are among the main organisations that develop globally relevant, consensus-based, international standards, as recognised by the WTO (World Trade Organization). The EPO has already signed similar agreements with the ITU, as well as with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Standards Association (IEEE-SA).