The patent profession and the future of work

Work is now digital and mobile. We use technology to access our business systems, collect data, draft reports, communicate and collaborate, and connect teams across geographical and organisational boundaries.

The pandemic has accelerated a cultural shift in our ways of working, none more so than in the world’s legal systems, which were under pressure to maintain access to justice.

We have seen new digital procedures successfully adopted which, before the outbreak of COVID-19, seemed questionable and unnecessary to many.

But for more than a year courts have been delivering justice via online hearings and the European Patent Office (EPO) has been operating oral proceedings by videoconference (ViCo) to ensure that the wheels of innovation and economic activity keep turning.

The EPO published a report this week (12 July 2021) explaining how its staff, applicants and the patent profession have successfully navigated this major cultural shift. We welcome the report and congratulate the EPO on the leadership it has shown throughout the pandemic, often in the face of scepticism and criticism.

CIPA quickly saw the benefits that would flow from an increased use of ViCo – greater transparency, lower costs, speedier decisions, improved public safety, reduced environmental impact and access to all regardless of geographical location.

We embraced the new modes of working and quickly launched a suite of training resources to ensure that the UK profession would improve its world-leading expertise in virtual proceedings.

We also worked in partnership with the EPO, speaking to patent professionals around the world to spread knowledge of the new procedures and share best practice.

We stand by our statement, made in December 2020:

It is becoming clear that videoconferencing is inevitable in the long term for all oral proceedings at the EPO. The next generation of users will expect a remote, distributed and technology-based process as a matter of course.

We have consistently said that ViCo is the future for the EPO, with the caveat that it must be fit for purpose. We are very pleased to see that all the evidence shows that it is.

Alicia Instone, CIPA President, said today: “We are proud of the lead we have taken in the promotion of videoconferencing as the future for our profession.

“The EPO’s ViCo progress report shows that feedback from the profession helped the EPO to adapt and refine its approach. Much of this feedback and support came from the UK.

“I am a strong advocate of measures to support equality and diversity and have been delighted to see the successful adoption of a technology that provides access to all regardless of personal circumstance or physical mobility.”

Date Published: 15 July 2021

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