António Campinos opens the Patenting Blockchain conference

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues.
It is a pleasure to welcome you to The Hague for our very first conference on
Blockchain. If ever there was a time to discuss the impact of these technology,
it is now. The first Industrial Revolution is gaining more and more
momentum – and everyone in IP has to get to grips with the technologies that are
driving this period of great change – and to understand their impact. Earlier this
year in May we did exactly that, by holding a large conference on Artificial
Intelligence – the first of its kind by a patent office in Europe. Today’s event
builds upon that conference by discussing another key component of 4IR which is developing rapidly – Blockchain. In the same way as we did for
AI, we are here today principally to discuss the patenting of this technology, and one major aim is to give applicants better knowledge around the drafting of
blockchain applications. But why now? A little later today you’re going to hear
from our Chief economist and he’s going to talk about some of the trends we are
seeing in blockchain filings and applications. But the long and the short
of it, is this: Patent applications for this technology are rising – and they are
rising very fast. Particularly in the last two years, we have seen a very sharp
increase. It’s happening in Europe and it’s happening in a host of other
territories. And the number of filings is expected to grow further. The fields in
which blockchain technology is being used is also expanding rapidly. Inventors
and programmers are quickly discovering many creative ways in which it can be
applied: Keeping patient records in the health industry. Vehicles with embedded
technology. Changes in the finance industry, insurance claims, supply chains
and blockchain powered IP trading platforms. The list
goes on. All in all, we’re looking at more patent applications in more
technological fields. We can’t tell how this technology or its patent landscape
is going to evolve in the future, with absolute certainty. And it’s true that
the number of filings is still relatively small compared with other
technologies. But what we can do, is prepare for the changes and trends we
are seeing now and to anticipate growth in the future. One element of that, is
making sure we are prepared – as a patent granting authority – to efficiently grant
blockchain patents that are legally robust. And I’m pleased to say our
ability to grant these patents in a predictable manner
is well underway. After all, blockchain inventions are computer implemented
inventions. So they are examined by the EPO according to very stable criteria
developed on the basis of CII case law. Our examination guidelines are
constantly reviewed and adapted in order to make these criteria clear, both to
examiners and external stakeholders. In addition, the EPO’s three member examining divisions that we have in place, allows for an efficient examination of often
cross-disciplinary blockchain patent applications. And we will continue to
develop our training and competencies to ensure EPO examiners can excel in their
work. But another element of our preparation is to reach out to reach out
to our users, to make sure we are doing everything we can to help them in the
patent application process for blockchain. The EPO has always faced
future challenges with our users in close dialogue, and developed our
services in response to their needs. So this conference, this conference has been
designed to give everyone a full understanding of the patent application
process at EPO for blockchain. Some of you are highly experienced with the
European patent system and some may be relatively new users. But regardless of your knowledge of the European patent system, we are aiming to
provide clarification and insight for everyone on our patent grant process and
on how to draft claims in this relatively new, but rapidly expanding, field. Today we
also want to continue to develop a shared understanding of the issues that
are relevant both to both of us – EPO staff and users alike. If you look at
the agenda, you will see it’s been developed to give us an opportunity to
look at a range of associated subjects. Subjects such as the fields of
application for Blockchain, its future impact and searching blockchain patents,
as well as how patent applications are developing in other parts of the world,
such as China. I will close by saying that this may be a highly dynamic subject,
but we have here today a wide range of stakeholders, who can all
contribute knowledge and expertise: We have got EPO experts from all our sites
to ensure the EPO has a fully coordinated approach, institutional partners, such as
the European Commission, national patent offices, user associations, academia,
industry representatives, IP attorneys, and many more. It’s the perfect occasion
to learn how the challenge of patenting blockchain becomes an opportunity for
all of us. So thank you very much and enjoy the conference.

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