Column by Harrie Marsman, European patent attorney
The following text can be found on the website for the European Patent Office (EPO): ‘patent examiners work at the forefront of technology and deal every day with the latest and most challenging technical innovations’. When I attend meetings at the EPO in Munich, I regularly have contact with examiners. Over a cup of coffee, one of them said that it would be good to visit applicants some time. The object: to explain EPO processes to companies so that applicants are able to anticipate them better. This then prompted me, back at V.O., to organize three trips for representatives from the EPO. All three trips were to companies that are active in the field of polymer technology.
Trips like this have a number of advantages. For example, it gives examiners the opportunity to step away from their desks. In many cases, they have little real experience of the business sector. Thanks to this type of working visits, examiners are also able to see how difficult it can sometimes be for employees on the factory work floor to carry out their requests. I believe that their attitude to inventors has now changed and that they have a greater understanding of professional practice.
I have now visited the United States twice and Japan once with delegations from the EPO. The great thing about these meetings is that they always result in lively discussions. If you put a group of engineers around a table together, you will find that they start talking about technology straight away. We found that being on the road with a director from the EPO meant that doors opened for us everywhere in Japan. Prominent companies like Canon and Seiko Epson, which are usually difficult to gain access to, welcomed us with top delegations.
These trips have real value for V.O. clients too. They definitely benefit from the good relationship we have with the EPO. I myself really enjoy visiting innovative companies too: it ensures that I keep on top of developments in my own field!