The Eurasian Patent Organization is celebrating the five-year anniversary of its foundation. This date, like any other important landmark, is a good occasion to sum up and consider what has been accomplished.
And we certainly do have something to think about.
As someone who started his way towards this anniversary many years ago, I would like to look back at the period that preceded the foundation of EAPO. It was the turbulent period of the disintegration of the USSR, full of complex and dramatic events. Yet, it was also a time for searching for new ways to unite under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Intensification of global economic relations increased the significance of integration processes in the area of legal protection of industrial property.
A simpler and faster procedure was needed for obtaining legal protection for the results of creative activity. This thesis was confirmed by subsequent developments in the industrial property legislation of individual countries and the creation of various international unions.
The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property that dates back to 1883 was the first major step in the direction of building an efficient international system of industrial property protection. In the second half of the 20th century both a global patent institution (the International Union for Patent Cooperation, established in 1970 by the Patent Cooperation Treaty) and international regional organizations for the protection of industrial property grew out of the Paris Convention.
By 1999 the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) included 43 members, of which 10 belonged to the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), which became the "common ground" for the purposes of granting patents. In 1988 the International Bureau of WIPO received 12.5 thousand PCT applications, with 184 countries designated in them. These numbers mean that each international application replaced 15 national ones. The key point is that more patent applications are filed according to the international procedure while the cost of obtaining international patent protection is going down.
It must be noted that African countries acted as pioneers of regional patent integration. In 1962 the representatives of the Francophone countries of Africa signed, in the City of Libreville, the Agreement Relating to the Creation of an African and Malagasy Office of Industrial Property Protection. In 1977 this Agreement was replaced by the Bangui Agreement on the establishment of the African Intellectual Property Organization.
The English-speaking countries of Africa, too, have a certain affinity resulting from common features in their historic and economic development. In 1976 they founded the Industrial Property Organization of English-speaking Africa (now called the African Regional Industrial Property Organization).
The most successful example of regional patent integration, however, is presented by Western Europe.
The edifice of the European patent system stands on two patent conventions: the Convention on the Grant of European Patents (European Patent Convention), signed in 1973 in Munich, and Convention for the European Patent for the Common Market (Community Patent Convention), signed in 1975 in Luxembourg and subsequently named the Agreement on Patent of the Community.
By the early 1990's the above tendencies became generally apparent, especially in countries with a culture and long tradition of invention and of intellectual and industrial property protection, developed legislation, and with experts in those areas.
For countries still in the process of developing their patent legislation and still, for whatever reason, lacking an established practice of industrial property protection, the urgency of cooperation increased even more.
This is exactly the situation that developed after the disintegration of the USSR patent system. With the exception of the Russian Federation, the legal successor to the USSR, the fourteen newly independent states had just begun to establish their patent systems.
The long, complex, and yet successful process of creating a single patent territory in the place of the former Soviet Union began with the working meeting of the representatives of the CIS countries on October 10, 1991, in Moscow. At this meeting the aims and objectives of cooperation in the industrial property protection were first formulated, and the patent policies, which are an important component of economic integration, were agreed upon.
The principle of a single patent system, accepted at this conference, later became the foundation of the Agreement on the Protection of Industrial Property.
In view of the overall prevalence of disintegration, this example of successful integration on the new principle of mutual economic advantage clearly demonstrated that the former USSR republics had reached a degree of readiness for productive collaboration. Later this integration trend faced many obstacles, which were successfully overcome thanks to the political will and resolve of those who stood behind the idea of creating a single patent territory in place the former USSR.
It is important to note that the participants of the meeting agreed that the Interstate Patent Office - an independent institution - would be the most appropriate body to represent the industrial property protection organization.
Later this situation was to become the focus of heated disputes, thus serving as a typical example of how a narrow departmental approach can still lurk behind the mask of high rhetoric and demagogic appeal to state interests.
The meeting of the government representatives of the CIS member states in Minsk on December 27, 1991, became the starting point for the creation of a single patent territory covering most of the former USSR republics. Following the meeting, the positions of the Agreement initiators steadily moved closer together.
The real-life relevance of the problems of creating a single patent territory, well-developed documents, and generating more than a merely formal interest on the part of the participants in resolving disagreements resulted in the Provisional Agreement on the Protection of Industrial Property, which was signed by the end of the Minsk meeting. Yet, only the Ukraine ratified that Agreement. Other countries did not come to any decision, but their wish to cooperate was nevertheless apparent.
The issues of collaboration in the area of industrial property protection seemed to have yielded in significance to such global strategic objectives as international programs, joint use of scientific and technical facilities, coordination in the training of research and teaching staff, collaboration in the area of scientific and technical information, standardization, metrology, or certification.
Yet, this specific direction of cooperation turned out to be the most promising and the one in greatest demand.
Continuous step-by-step work to develop the Agreement was carried out over the course of the next two years.
A meeting of the CIS Prime Ministers was held in Moscow on March 12, 1993, where a new Agreement on Measures Concerning the Protection of Industrial Property was signed.
Article 1 of this Agreement calls for the creation of the Interstate Council on the Protection of Industrial Property for the coordination of joint efforts in setting up an interstate system of industrial property protection, bringing national legislations into conformity with each other, and the development of the open-type Convention for the protection of industrial property.
The first meeting of this Interstate Council generated proposals on the priority steps for the creation of the Interstate system for the legal protection of industrial property and established the Interstate Bureau for the Protection of Industrial Property. The plan was to establish the Interstate Patent Office on the basis of this Bureau. A standing interstate working group of experts, headed by the President of the Interstate Bureau, was formed to develop the draft of the open-type Patent Convention and related documentation.
The working group, with the active participation of the WIPO staff and its Director-General A. Bogsch, developed the draft of the Eurasian Patent Convention, which was adopted on February 17, 1994, at the meeting of the Interstate Council on the Protection of Industrial Property, held at the WIPO headquarters in Geneva.
On September 9, 1994 the Convention was signed by the Prime Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Ukraine.
For the Convention to come into effect, three or more countries would have to ratify it in their parliaments, or pass authorized decisions to accede to the Convention.
Turkmenistan became the first country to accede to the Convention by submitting the ratification document to the Depository on March 1, 1995; the Republic of Belarus acceded to the Eurasian Patent Convention on May 8 by providing the appropriate document to the Depository, and the Republic of Tajikistan followed on May 12, 1995.
The Eurasian Patent Convention came into force on August 12, 1995, as stipulated in Article 26 (4), 1995, thus completing the "pre-history" of the Organization.
The First (extraordinary) meeting of the Administrative Council of the Eurasian Patent Organization was held on October 2, 1995, in Geneva, where I was voted to the post of President of the Eurasian Patent Office. It was the beginning of the five-year period, the results of which I am about to summarize.
In most cases five years would be too short a time for an international organization to successfully achieve all of its objectives. Today we may confidently say that the Organization is now a fact. That is, it has been recognized and integrated into the world patent system. There are several reasons for this, and I'd like to discuss these in more detail.
1. The need for Eurasian patents by both the Contracting states and third-party states is demonstrated by the number of patent applications filed and patents granted.
The number of applications has exceeded one thousand per year, with the vast majority of them moving to the substantive examination stage.
It should be noted that the distribution of application subjects matches the established worldwide norms: the applicants view EAPO as a reliable partner in protecting their industrial property across the entire spectrum of business activity.
Patent issuing done by EAPO is a two-way street. There are not just more applications from the Contracting States, but more designations of these in the patents of applicants from most developed countries. Presently an average of 4.5 states are designated per application. This certainly shows how attractive EAPO is for the purpose of obtaining patents in the Convention member states.
2. The development of Eurasian legislation corresponds to that of the Organization in both content and timeframe. The timespan of problem resolution by legislative means is short.
A good example of this is the fast development and adoption of Changes and Additions to the Statute on Fees by the Eurasian Patent Organization, which made the Eurasian patents considerably more attractive. The Organization decided to reduce its revenues obtained from a single procedural fee and a substantive examination fee. And this decision was not made to gain cheap popularity! The new fee structure made them more affordable for small firms, which was expected to result in more applications filed with EAPO. Applicants, patent owners, and patent attorneys valued not only the lowering of costs, but the simplification of fee calculation.
This example is an excellent illustration of the creative approach to finding optimal solutions to the issues facing the Organization in its dynamic development.
3. Growing automation and increasing role of information match the requirements of the world's patent industry.
EAPO's success in these directions is no accident. Even during the initial stage, the founders of the EAPO were oriented towards the highest of standards. This became possible, to a large extent, thanks to scientific achievements and many years of practical experience in the area of paperless technologies in patent offices of developed countries, and to international organizations, of which WIPO and EPO should be named first and whose help during all stages of EAPO's establishment was invaluable.
This experience, the selection of proper methods and means of automation, plus scientific and practical experience of our own top specialists, have allowed EAPO to embrace world class information technologies in a short time.
Today's level of automation within EAPO is exemplified by an extensive patent information fund containing data from both internal and external sources. Now the examiners can use the automated database of Eurasian applications, patent documentation received by EAPO from foreign patent offices and international organizations on CD-ROMs, patent and non-patent information received via communication channels from remote databases (such as EPOQUE, CAS, and DERWENT), and other information that can be accessed via the Internet.
It is realistic for EAPO to achieve in the near future the status of an International Searching Authority and an International Preliminary Examining Authority. Furthermore, such status will probably be obtained in the near future.
4. EAPO' collaboration with patent attorneys is developing successfully. Over 150 attorneys from 9 countries comprise a well-functioning organism. A good level of understanding has been achieved between this informal system and EAPO on organizational, financial, and legislative issues. The adopted Procedure and Program for the certification and re-certification of patent attorneys is helping to achieve this objective.
The re-certification results have in full measure confirmed the professional level of patent attorneys, their good knowledge of Eurasian patent legislation and their ability to effectively apply it.
It is very important that collaboration with Eurasian patent attorneys is not just formal, but has the character of a true dialogue. Joint searches for better ways to work together and solve problems, and consideration of the attorneys' proposals on how the legislative base of EAPO can be improved, help in making the processing applications easier and faster.
5. And, lastly, as the Head of the Office, I want to note the key characteristic of the organization: its people.
The structure of EAPO took its final shape by the beginning of 1998, with its key principle being equal access of all the Contracting States citizens to the activity of EAPO. Its qualified and creative staff got to work. A high level of professionalism is an essential condition for the formation of an effective organization. But any organization, and especially an international one, is a dynamic system. The tasks are growing more diverse and complex. Political and economic changes in and between the partner states are taking place. The macro-level events throw light onto the micro-level operations of the Office's international staff.
It may appear that the Office management only needs to maintain a good working climate and provide social security to the employees to achieve the team effect. But we must not forget that one of the highest professional qualities of intellectual workers is their urge and ability to learn new things regardless of their status, age, or self-esteem. This urge to grow professionally must be pursued in a manner that brings the most both to the organization and to the persons that comprise it. And this has become one of the priority directions for the EAPO top management.
Professional development according to individualized programs, language training, international seminars, scientific and practical conferences - this is just a partial list of professional development activities which have become traditional for EAPO.
International organizations - EAPO's partners and good friends - have been very helpful from the very moment of the organization's founding. It is hard to overestimate, for example, the role of the European Patent Organization in the preparation and training of the EAPO staff.
Patent professionals use one very important concept: combination of features that affect the results.
In our case the "baseline" level of professionalism, professional development, employee security and the workplace microclimate are such a combination of features. The result is that our staff wants EAPO to gain and maintain the reputation of a world-class patent office.
By 1997 the formation of EAPO was largely completed, and all directions of its activity found reflection in its structural organization. The Agreement Between WIPO and EAPO on collaboration in the area of industrial property came into effect. The required changes and amendments were made in the Organization's basic normative documents. The mechanism of document exchange between EAPO and countries that are not party to the Convention was developed. This provided a powerful impetus towards the increase of patent documentation received by EAPO from patent offices of the countries that are world's economic leaders.
The Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Eurasian Patent Organization on the headquarters of the Organization in Moscow and the Federal Law on the ratification of this Agreement became, in essence, the last of the founding documents that allowed the Organization to function as an international organization.
EAPO granted its first Eurasian patent on April 29, 1997. A citizen of Russia, V.I. Razmaitov, was its owner. With the granting of this first patent, the Register of Eurasian Patents became EAPO's official information source on the status of Eurasian patents.
Among the objectives facing EAPO today, probably the most important ones remain further development of the organization and rendering assistance to the national patent offices of the countries that ratified and joined the Eurasian Patent Convention in such issues as conducting examinations, informational support, the use of new technologies, or staff preparation and training.
The economic integration of states may be the grand goal, but it must be approached in specific little steps. The experience of both European and African integration is that successes in the area of industrial property protection are among such steps.
Of course, the development of the patent system in the countries that are members of the Eurasian Patent Organization is but one of the ingredients that determine the economic climate, and perhaps not even a main one given such issues as the unstable economy of our countries or our unreliable banking and financial systems.
World experience, however, tells us another thing: in states where intellectual property, including industrial property, enjoy effective protection, investors have one problem less to worry about. Thus, the chances of industrial development in the real sector of the economy become higher.
Today the Eurasian patent is playing the role of a "pioneer" in a real moving together of economic interests between the Eurasian Patent Convention member states and their strategic partners.
This underlines the importance of the Eurasian Patent Organization in assuring effective protection of industrial property and expansion of collaboration, to the benefit of inventors around the world.
The Organization has secured its place in the world patent system thanks to the energy, professionalism and dedication of many people. Representatives of the Eurasian Patent Convention member states should be named first in the list of people to whom the Organization owes its success.
At all stages of the development of the Convention and establishment of the Organization, Director-General of WIPO A. Bogsch, his deputy F. Curchod, and WIPO associates V. Troussov and J. Bobrovszky generously shared their experiences and rendered practical aid. WIPO, and its present head K. Idris specifically, remains a reliable partner of the Organization. We greatly value the attention and support from the president of EPO I. Kober and his colleagues, and from the head of the Ukrainian Patent Office V. Petrov, Chairman of the Interstate Council on the Protection of Industrial property, who made a significant contribution to the development of the European Patent Convention.
And lastly, EAPO would not be so successful and effective without the well-organized work of the plenipotentiary representatives in its Administrative Council: M. Seidov, S. Khantardjian, V. Kudashov, T. Kaudyrov, R. Omorov, E. Stashkov, A. Korchagin, I. Takhirov, R. Agabaev, as well as the staff of EAPO, and the outstanding organizational qualities of the Deputies of EAPO President A. Grigoriev and Kh. Fayazov.
Happy Anniversary, my dear friends and colleagues!
V. Blinnikov, President of EAPO