WIPO’s vision for the future puts particular emphasis on Intellectual Property (IP) as power tool for economic development. This entails greater pro-active promotion on the part of WIPO with a view to increasing awareness of the importance and usefulness of patent information. Assisting developing countries and countries in transition to build capacity to allow greater access to, and use of, the IP system, will therefore continue to be one of the strategic priorities for WIPO.
Access to technical information contained in patent documents is a key element in fostering the use of the IP system, and in particular of the patent system, for innovation and creation. For this reason, providing patent information services should continue to be an essential component of the program of technical assistance implemented by WIPO. Moreover, WIPO’s assistance in the area of patent information has, beyond the technical dimension, high political value for developing countries and most countries in transition to a market economy. It has been pointed out that the real added value of the WIPO Patent Information Services for developing countries and countries in transition (WPIS) is that they are free-of-charge and that they can provide quick assistance to their users. This cannot be denied.
WPIS was established in 1975, within the framework of the technical assistance program of WIPO, and in response to a precise need of developing countries. Since its inception, the main objective of the WPIS has been to facilitate access and use of the technological information contained in patent documents to users from developing countries. It is widely recognized, although not as widely known, that published patents documents and patent applications, as well as the patent examination reports produced by patent examiners to establish the patentability of patent applications, are the most valuable source of technological information. This information, commonly referred to as patent information, is available in the published patent collections of national patent offices of most developed countries and some developing countries or countries in transition, as well as regional patent offices such as EPO, ARIPO, OAPI. In the past, access by patent offices in developing countries to patent information sources was limited for a variety of factors restraining, in particular, their possibility to perform local searches on the state-of-the-art in many different areas of technology. For this reason, WIPO launched the WPIS to provide developing countries with specific services free-of-charge. With the advent of Internet and the development of huge, sophisticated and electronically searchable databases, which are now replacing paper patent documents collections published by the most advanced national and regional patent offices, patent information is today available on-line or in electronic form (CD-ROM, DVD) and therefore accessed much more easily than ever before.
The services provided by WPIS are the following:
1. providing, upon request, reports on state-of-the-art in a specific technological field, based on searches and investigations carried out in patent documentation collections and on-line databases (service in operation since 1975).
2. providing, upon request, search and examination reports in order to assist patent offices of developing countries in the assessment of the novelty and the inventive step of a patent application filed with them (service operating since December 1983 under the so-called International Cooperation in the Search and Examination of Inventions Program (ICSEI)).
3. providing information on equivalent patent documents of published patent applications and granted patents including, where relevant, patent literature cited in earlier examination procedures or identified in documentary searches carried out by other patent offices (patent family).
4. provision of free-of-charge copies of published patents documents and patent applications (service operated since 1984).
5. in addition, WPIS staff provide, upon request, briefings on WIPO information services, training and expert assistance on access to patent information on the main on-line databases (especially ESPACEnet/EPO, USPTO, Derwent), advice on the establishment of patent information centers as well as on transfer of technology, to staff of industrial property offices, R&D centers, universities, industrial associations or chambers of commerce, and individual inventors. This is done through WPIS staff advisory missions to the countries where assistance is requested.
WPIS runs the services mentioned under 1), 2), 3) and 4) above, in cooperation with the industrial property offices of 17 countries, hereafter referred to as “donor offices.” The donor offices are currently: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Venezuela. The European Patent Office (EPO) is also a donor office but only insofar as the service concerning the provision of copies of patent documents is concerned. The cooperation between WPIS and donor offices is based on specific terms of agreement stipulated in formal written agreements between the Director General of WIPO and the director of the concerned donor office. These terms of agreement specify the amount (in total number of requests) and the nature of the requests that the donor office is willing to process per year according to its availability in time and manpower. It is important to note that donor offices do not charge WIPO for their assistance and that their commitment is made within the framework of their national schemes or programs of cooperation for development. In addition Derwent also provide WIPO with free on.line access for WPIS to their most important patent databases.