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29 November 2017

CPVO President Martin Ekvad, CPVO Vice-President Francesco Mattina, Professor Anselm Kamperman Sanders of Maastricht University, EPO Principal Director Margot Fröhlinger

The European Patent Office (EPO) and the Community Plant
Variety Office (CPVO) held today a joint conference in Brussels to illustrate
the way in which the two offices co-operate to support innovation in the plant
The conference attracted some 200 participants from industry and
academia, the European Commission, European Parliament, legal practice,
national patent offices, NGOs and the general public.

In their opening statements, high-level representatives of the EPO and the CPVO
took stock of the first two years of co-operation. According to Margot
Fröhlinger, EPO Principal Director for the Unitary Patent, European and
International Legal Affairs, “the co-operation promotes information and
transparency in the area of plant innovation. The CPVO and the EPO are jointly
committed to ensuring that both breeders and industry maintain their confidence
in the validity and quality of patents and plant breeders’ rights,” she said.

Martin Ekvad, CPVO President, emphasised the importance of formalising
cooperation in an agreement concluded last year between the EPO and CPVO:
“Basing our co-operation on an Administrative Agreement will also in future
contribute to a better understanding between our institutions on a technical
and legal level. This helps us in turn to better inform industry and the public
on the implementation of two mutually supportive IP systems.”

After both offices explained their roles and practice, three
expert panels moderated by Anselm Kamperman Sanders, Professor of IP Law at
Maastricht University, explored some of the key themes surrounding plant
innovation. Speakers outlined how the EPO responded to the Commission Notice
C/2016/6997 in relation to essentially biological breeding methods by proposing amendments of
Rules 27(b) and 28 of the European Patent Convention to our Administrative
Council earlier this year, and how these rules are now applied in the Office’s
patenting practice.

Enhancing the transparency of IP
rights was a further key topic of the conference, with speakers explaining how
third parties, including the general public, can follow all stages of both the
patent and PVR granting processes. Patent applications and granted patents are published
and freely accessible to the public, for instance in the EPO’s patent database
Espacenet. PVR documents are also publicly available from the CPVO, either
directly from the office’s website or on request. Industry initiatives such as
the Patent Information and Transparency Online (PINTO) database, which provides
a link between a plant variety and a patent or patent application, aim to
enhance transparency further.

All of the day’s presentations
were met with strong interest from the floor as the largely expert audience
responded with well-informed questions and thus contributed to a very lively
round of discussions.

EPO and CPVO: committed to quality

At the EPO less than one in three patent applications in biotechnology becomes
a European patent, while the overall grant rate in all fields of technology is
around 48%. Patent examiners working in biotechnology are trained intensively
to accurately apply the patent law in their field. This also includes regular
exchanges with CPVO experts and the use of state-of-the-art databases, in
particular plant genome databases. At the CVPO high quality is ensured by
setting quality requirements to be followed by entrusted examination offices,
which are audited regularly.

Co-operation between the two
offices has already significantly enhanced the sharing of information among
their experts. Moreover, both the EPO and the CPVO jointly aim to raise
awareness of the benefits of protecting innovation in the plant and breeding
sector, in order to create growth and employment in these areas, and thus serve
the economy and society as a whole.



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