Quality Roadmap

CA/27/14
Orig.: en
Munich, 16.04.2014
SUBJECT:
Quality Roadmap: update and plans
SUBMITTED BY:
President of the European Patent Office
ADDRESSEES:
1. Technical and Operational Support Committee (for opinion)
2. Administrative Council (for decision)
SUMMARY
The EPO Quality Roadmap outlines the actions required to achieve the goals of the EPO’s
Quality Policy. These efforts are steered by the EPO Quality Board, which is chaired by
the Management Representative for Quality, VP2.
The present document summarises the achievements to date and makes proposals for
new initiatives to be taken up under the Quality Roadmap.
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-ITABLE OF CONTENTS
Subject
Page
I. STRATEGIC/OPERATIONAL
1 II. RECOMMENDATION
1 III. MAJORITY NEEDED
1 IV. CONTEXT
1 A. QUALITY ROADMAP
1 B. GOVERNANCE
1 C. EXECUTION
2 D. ACHIEVEMENTS
2 V. ARGUMENTS
5 A. AREA 1 – QUALITY STRATEGY
5 a) b) c) d) e) ISO 9001 Certification for the Patent Grant Area
Extension of ISO 9001 compliant QMS
User Satisfaction Survey (USS) Review
Handbook of Quality Procedures
Quality Indicators
5 5 6 6 6 AREA 2 – SEARCH, EXAMINATION & CLASSIFICATION
7 a) b) Individual Quality Objectives (IQO)
DG1 Quality Action Plan 2014
7 7 AREA 3 – PATENT GRANT PROCESS
7 a) 7 B. C. D. DG2 Patent Administration Quality Action Plan 2014
EXTERNAL QUALITY ACTIVITIES
8 VI. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
9 VII. LEGAL BASIS
9 VIII. DOCUMENTS CITED
9 IX. RECOMMENDATION FOR PUBLICATION
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I.
STRATEGIC/OPERATIONAL
Strategic
II.
RECOMMENDATION
The Technical and Operational Support Committee is requested to give a positive
opinion on the strategic direction proposed in this document.
III.
MAJORITY NEEDED
N.A.
IV.
CONTEXT
A.
QUALITY ROADMAP
The EPO Quality Roadmap outlines the actions required to achieve the goals of
the EPO’s Quality Policy. The document that set out the Quality Roadmap for the
first time (CA/97/11) was approved by the Administrative Council in December
2011.
As recognised in CA/97/11, the success of the EPO rests largely on the quality of
the work it delivers. At the same time, the Office also needs to handle the
consequences of the changing IP environment where enhanced competition and
complexity have contributed to increased filings and the development of greater
sophistication in the creation and use of patent portfolios.
Through the implementation of the specific activities outlined in the Quality
Roadmap, the Office is making significant progress in achieving the strategic
objectives of enhancing efficiency and improving quality of products and services.
B.
GOVERNANCE
The Quality Roadmap is steered by the Quality Board (QB). The Quality Board is
chaired by VP2 and is the standing body responsible for the implementation of the
Quality Management System (QMS) at the EPO. The Quality Board recommends
and monitors the implementation of measures for improving quality and for
supporting a culture of continual improvement in accordance with the Office’s
Quality Policy. The regular duties of the Quality Board comprise:

Carrying out the Quality Management Review under the chairmanship of the
President

Establishing quality objectives and determining priorities

Ensuring corrective and preventive quality actions in the patent grant process
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C.
EXECUTION
Following the recommendations of the “EPO Support Services Study” by the firm
Deloitte in 2011, Principal Directorate Quality Management (PDQM) has been
successfully re-organised. Operational tasks and associated staff have been fully
re-integrated into DG1 and DG2 Patent Administration.
The new organisational structure and matrix-based project organisation has led to
efficiency gains which have allowed PDQM to cover activities relating to Quality
Assurance and ISO 9001 implementation/maintenance.
D.
ACHIEVEMENTS
Since the start of the Quality Roadmap, the EPO Quality Management System has
been significantly developed:
Governance

In alignment with the two pillars of the Office’s strategy, namely quality and
efficiency, quality objectives for DG1 and DG2 Patent Administration are set
on a yearly basis since 2012.
As an integral part of the Quality Management System, the President chairs
the Quality Board for the annual Quality Management Review since 2013.
Operational Quality

To improve the data on quality, new operational quality control systems for
monitoring non-conforming products in search and examination, in the patent
grant process and in classification were introduced.

The new “Conformity Assurance in Search and Examination” (CASE) system
checks every proposal for grant, every search report that cites only
background documents (A-documents) and at least two searches per
examiner per year together with their written opinions. The new system gives
the responsibility for the quality checks to the chairperson of a division,
thereby strengthening the role of the chairpersons as foreseen by the
Convention (Article 18 EPC).

In DG2 Patent Administration, Quality Circles were introduced to assess the
relevance of re-occurring quality issues and the necessity of actions. The
new Patent Administration Operational Quality Control (PA-OQC) system
uses focused sampling and data mining to ensure that potential areas of noncompliance are identified so that processes and products can be actively
managed.
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Steering the QMS

The reporting of quality results to DG1 and DG2 Patent Administration has
been consolidated and streamlined. Results from User Satisfaction Surveys,
operational quality control systems and user complaints are presented to the
operational departments in a single “Integrated Quality Report”, together with
a comprehensive analysis. This information is the basis for identifying
necessary actions (DG1 and DG2 Patent Administration Action Plans) to
ensure continual improvement.

To enable the planning and execution of corrective and preventive actions, a
dedicated system has been created called the European Quality
Improvement Database (EQUID). It enables monitoring the implementation
and effectiveness of improvement activities.
User Input to the QMS

The EPO received 207 complaints in 2013. This represents a significant
reduction with respect to the previous year (262). Before January 2014,
complaints about the EPO’s services needed to be filed in writing or by email.
There was no central point of reception for complaints and complaints arrived
to the office in various areas. To enhance the feedback to the Office, the
complaints handling procedure has been reviewed to ensure that external
complaints are treated in a harmonized manner. As of 1 January 2014, the
EPO has added an online complaints form to its website
(http://www.epo.org/contact or http://www.epo.org/complaints) to enable
users to submit complaints more easily.

The processing time of registered CRM tickets from registration to closure
has already been reduced from 17.5 days in 2012 to 15.3 days in 2013. The
new system has further shortened the period of time for dealing with
complaints. In addition, it has enabled the Office to deal with complaints
which relate to other services of the EPO, e.g. availability of EPO’s internet
services.
International Activities

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The European Patent Academy has been active in arranging conferences to
exchange best practice on ISO 9001 implementation between National
Patent Offices of the member states. In addition, the EPO has taken the
leading role in defining quality standards between the IP5 partners. The
Office continues to work closely with other international authorities and WIPO
on the development of PCT metrics which will enable individual Offices to
assess the effectiveness of the PCT system and identify areas for
improvement.
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ISO 9001
In the light of the maturity of the EPO’s Quality Management System, the EPO will
seek ISO 9001 certification of the Quality Management System of the patent grant
process in 2014.The table below provides an overview of achievements with
respect to objectives set out in CA/97/11:
Objective
Completion
Update the EPO Quality Policy
15.02.2013
Complete implementation of the Office's
ISO9001-compliant Quality Management
System for core and supporting processes
01.02.2014
Complete an internal quality Intranet microsite on the Office's Intranet
February 2013
Develop internal quality reporting
arrangements
01.04.2014
Complete the rollout of Classification
Operational Quality Control
2013
Share with users the findings of complaints
handling, and the actions undertaken by the
Office to overcome the causes underlying
justified complaints
New complaints procedure in force
since 01.01.2014
Implement the Guidelines in electronic form
(available to external users)
20.06.2012
Quality audits performed on applications
passing to grant
Ongoing
Complete an audit of the Quality
Management System in preparation for
certification
Ongoing
Achieve certification under ISO9001 for
core processes
Planned for 2014
Train staff in Operations on ISO 9001
Ongoing
Achieve harmonised re-usable examiner
search records
31.12.2013
Perform follow-up audits of nonconformities (ISO 9001)
Ongoing
Table 1 QRM Objectives (CA/97/11) and achievements
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V.
ARGUMENTS
The main goal of the EPO’s Quality Policy is to maintain, and where possible to
improve, the quality of the EPO’s patent products and services. Through its Quality
Management System (QMS), the EPO embeds a culture of continual improvement
and aims to enhance the quality of its services and products. To consolidate the
achievements and to further improve the EPO’s QMS, it is proposed that the EPO
Quality Roadmap 2014 -2016 work plan is defined for 3 areas:
A.
AREA 1 – QUALITY STRATEGY
a)
ISO 9001 Certification for the Patent Grant Area
The EPO Quality Management System (QMS) is sufficiently mature for the Office
to seek ISO 9001 certification for the patent grant process in 2014.
The British Standards Institute (BSI) is supporting the Office with the preparation
of the certification. BSI is carrying out a final readiness review in March to April.
This will be followed by a final gap-filling exercise and an accredited certification
authority will perform the certification audit in October/November 2014.
b)
Extension of ISO 9001 compliant QMS
With the experience gained from the implementation of the ISO 9001 compliant
QMS in the patent grant area, the Office is in a position to extend the QMS.
Discussions with key stakeholders have started to identify the processes and
procedures which will form the basis of the extended QMS.
The areas proposed for extension are:
(i)
Patent Information
The inclusion of the Patent Information area in the EPO QMS was already
proposed in CA/97/11. Patent Information is an internal and public service unit with
strong presence outside the EPO. The implementation of an ISO 9001 compliant
QMS will help to assure legal correctness of publications, as well as the
accessibility and completeness of patent information.
(ii)
DG3 Legal Services and Administration
The workflow within DG3 includes departments which provide appeals related
administrative support. They are within the Legal Research and Administration
directorate.
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The independence of the Boards of Appeal in the decision-making process needs
to be reflected in the QMS. The introduction of a QMS to these departments will
help to continually improve services for the Boards and for users of Board of
Appeal decisions.
(iii)
European and International Cooperation
The introduction of a QMS in European and International Cooperation will help to
continually improve interaction with cooperation partners such as National Patent
Offices of member and non-member states. It will support the maintenance of
high-quality service levels and increase the efficiency of processes.
The extension of the scope of the ISO 9001-compliant QMS will help to increase
quality awareness throughout the Office and in particular in areas that are not
directly linked with Operations. It is expected that it will take until the end of 2016
before QMS are implemented in the three areas proposed above.
c)
User Satisfaction Survey (USS) Review
The Quality Board has decided to review the timing of the User Satisfaction
Survey in order to better align the presentation of the quality data with the annual
Quality Management Review process.
d)
Handbook of Quality Procedures
The “Handbook of Quality Procedures before the EPO”, published in 2012, has
been well received by the global patent community. Its intention is to help to
increase the quality of incoming applications, communications from examiners and
submissions from parties, as well as to provide for an efficient prosecution. It was
an example of successful co-operation between the EPO, epi and
BusinessEurope. A decision by the three partners needs to be taken on whether to
continue the cooperation and to install a regular revision cycle.
e)
Quality Indicators
The EPO is developing a broad set of quality indicators as a resource for senior
management for supporting informed decision making and as a means to highlight
areas for possible improvement to staff. In addition, some of the quality indicators
will be used to inform users about the EPO’s performance in specific areas of
interest.
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B.
AREA 2 – SEARCH, EXAMINATION & CLASSIFICATION
a)
Individual Quality Objectives (IQO)
The EPO has started a process of breaking down the global quality objectives to
individual staff level. The aim is to have a system in place for the setting and
evaluation of individual quality objectives in DG1 by 2015.
b)
DG1 Quality Action Plan 2014
In order to achieve the Quality Objectives, DG1 has established a Quality Action
Plan. DG1 will focus in particular on:

continual improvement (facilitated by the new CASE procedure)

enhancing legal validity by strengthening the role of the Chairperson

providing IT support for drafting communications, minutes of oral proceedings
and facts and submissions part of decisions

raising the quality of the EPO’s searches by promoting the consultation of
Asian documentation,

focusing on timeliness (accelerated search and examination requests, PCT
time limits and Early Certainty from Search),

engaging in an active dialogue with users on recurrent sources of complaints

ensuring comprehensive coverage of the prior art at the search stage by
monitoring the consistency between the PCT Chapter I search performed by
the EPO and the addition of prior art into the procedure in the Regional
Phase.
C.
AREA 3 – PATENT GRANT PROCESS
a)
DG2 Patent Administration Quality Action Plan 2014
In 2014, DG2 Patent Administration will concentrate continual improvement efforts
on the following key areas:

user satisfaction:
o continuous work on mapping, monitoring and improving the customer
experience
o regular monitoring of the quality of the work of First Line Customer Services
and Switchboards
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
timeliness internal users:
o automation of specific routine tasks
o enhancing availability and coordination of Formalities Officers services

timeliness external users:
o regular spot-checks of Customer Relationship Management tickets
o regular phone calls to customers to assess customer satisfaction
o launch of the “EPO Customer Satisfaction Index” to benchmark the
Customer Experience quarterly

bibliographic data of B publications:
o improve standards for bibliographic data

quality of opposition files:
o complete the clean-up of active Opposition files
The Quality Action Plans of both DG1 and DG2 Patent Administration will be
monitored under the governance of the Quality Board.
D.
EXTERNAL QUALITY ACTIVITIES
The Office is keen to develop further cooperation within the European Patent
Network, in particular with regards to the EQMS. In addition, the Office will
continue close cooperation on quality matters with external partners in the
IP5/Trilateral, OHIM as well as with WIPO and user associations. The external
quality activities are being closely aligned with the activities undertaken within the
framework of the Cooperation Roadmap.
In addition to interoffice activities, the EPO will seek to expand contacts with user
groups. The information gained from these initiatives will be used as resources to
assist further in quality improvement measures at the EPO. In the coming year the
Office will:

strengthen cooperation on quality with the IP5 partner offices

seek to establish a common view on quality metrics for PCT and PPH with
SIPO; continue working with WIPO and International Authorities on metrics
that will allow a better understanding of how the PCT system is performing

extend the group of consulted user associations from the Trilateral user
associations to include the other IP5 partners with a view to establishing
regular meetings which can be used as a platform for sharing and receiving
information relating to quality.
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VI.
FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
No additional expenditures beyond CA/D 1/13 are planned in 2014.
VII.
LEGAL BASIS
Article 10(2) EPC.
VIII.
DOCUMENTS CITED
CA/97/11
IX.
RECOMMENDATION FOR PUBLICATION
Yes
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