Joff Wild

For the third year running respondents to the annual IP benchmarking survey conducted jointly by IAM magazine and the IP Solutions of Thomson Reuters have clearly stated that the European Patent Office has the highest standards of performance among the IP Five.

On the private practice side, 68% of respondents stated that the EPO’s quality is either “excellent” or “very good”, that’s up from 62% in 2011. The results from the corporate side revealed that 55% regarded the office’s performance to be either “excellent” or “very good”, while a further 37% considered it to be “good”. Direct comparisons with last year’s results from corporates are not possible as there was no opportunity to choose “good” in 2011, just “excellent”, “very good”, “fair” or “poor”. However, put another way, just 8% of in-house respondents stated that the EPO’s quality was “fair” or “poor”; while the figures were 19% for the Japan Patent Office, 23% for the USPTO, 39% for the Korea IP Office and 45% for China's State IP Office.

There was good news in the survey, too, for USPTO Director David Kappos: 30% of private practice respondents and 38% of in-house respondents stated that they believe that quality at the office has improved in the last year; this comes after rises of 31% and 30% respectively recorded in the 2011 survey. In 2010, by contrast, just 26% of those from in-house and 20% of private practitioners reported that things were getting better. In both 2011 and 2010, dissatisfaction rates were high with well over 15% of corporate and private practice respondents believing that the quality of USPTO-issued patents had deteriorated. This year, however, those figures have fallen back sharply to stand at 12% (private practice) and 8% (in-house).

Although SIPO still lags behind the other IP Five offices, there are signs that things are getting better there as well, with over 50% of both corporate and private practice respondents stating that they believe that quality standards have improved.

The 2012 IAM/Thomson Reuters IP benchmarking survey of IAM readers was conducted between 9th February and 15th March this year, and received 642 responses in total from a senior in-house and private practice base. They were asked to answer questions relating to issues such as:

• The level of overall corporate awareness of IP issues.

• Portfolio management.

• Key geographical areas of interest.

• The impact that the recent America Invents Act will have on patent owners.

• Performance of leading patent offices.

• Licensing and other forms of IP value creation.

• Leading litigation venues.

• The obstacles to successful IP value creation.

A full 45% of in-house participants reported that corporate leadership in their organisations “understands the value and importance of IP, and is actively involved in strategic planning related to IP”, that’s a 10 percentage point year-on-year rise (it is also, of course, an exceptionally high figure and one that probably reflects the greater IP literacy that exists in businesses that subscribe to IAM in comparison to the corporate world generally). On top of this, 31% stated that recent market events – such as the Nortel auction, the Motorola acquisition and the proposed sales of portfolios by the likes of Kodak and InterDigital – have had a noticeable impact on IP awareness in their companies. Another 37% agree that recent developments have had an impact, but have no direct experience; while 15% state that IP awareness inside their company was already at a high-level.

More result, as well as analysis of what they mean, will be published in issue 54 of IAM, which comes out this Friday.