European Patent Office - Annual Review 2020

July 13, 2021

In a year of significant changes, the European Patent Office has published the Annual Review of its performance. The review has seven separate sections covering quality, social affairs, the environment, IT, data protection, communication and engagement.

The review can be found here: EPO - Annual Review 2020. Some key findings are presented below.

A total of 180,250 European patent applications were filed last year, 0.7% fewer than in 2019, with Covid-19, therefore, having a minor effect on the number of filings.

The EPO has seen a decrease in the amount of work it needed to do and so has seen a reduction in the number of old files (which have a valid examination request from before 2013). At the end of Q1 2021, the average examination duration for standard cases has reduced to 23.2 months, and the average time to grant for EP first filings has fallen by 3.3 months over the past year to 43.9 months from filing to grant. The EPO expects these processing times to continue to fall.

However, the EPO expects opposition timeliness to deteriorate in 2021, as the opposition backlog has grown because many oral proceedings were postponed due to Covid-19.

Covid-19 massively accelerated the process of digital transformation at the EPO, introducing a number of changes that were originally due by 2023. This includes the rise of video conferencing and teleworking, with the average EPO worker teleworking for 114 days in 2020. This led to a 47.5% decrease in total annual paper consumption and an 80% decrease in duty travel.