A major problem with the European patent system, compared with the U.S., is that the right to patent is lost immediately, if an invention is publicly disclosed prior to the filing of the patent application. The U.S., on the other hand, provides a grace period of one year in which to have the patent application on-file. This one year grace period is of enormous benefit to the electronics and computer industries, where it is often very difficult to keep an invention from public disclosure while pursuing the development of products or services. The lack of a grace period for Europe is less of a problem for other industries, like biotech or pharmaceuticals, where products are often developed, anyway, through longterm secretive efforts.
Your points are quite good. I think the reason for the differences in priorities is that the U.S. patent system, for all its failings, is still well-ahead of the EPO's situation. The U.S. patent still has, by far, the best cost/benefit ratio. Just one U.S. patent covers an economy of roughly the same size as the EU with its 27 primary members. Once you obtain the patent, the U.S. provides a court system, unified under the special patent appeals court of the Federal Circuit, that can really enforce it. Since the U.S. has the basics covered, it can afford to focus on secondary effects, like backlog. The EPO, on the other hand, still has to address the basic issue of a unified system.
It is interesting that with all the talk about patent law reform in the United States, none of the major concerns facing the European Patent Office (multiple languages, multiple jurisdictions, multiple classifications) apply to the US. One hot topic of discussion here (reducing the backlog of patent applications) is ranked as a relatively low priority by Battistelli and the other (patentability) wasn't mentioned.
My experience with US patents suggests that first actions often take 2 years. Average time to issue (for my 32 patents) is 43 months. The article says the EPO gives all applicants a first action within six months, typically grants patents within 43 months, and has a free fast-path system (only requested by 7% of applicants).
Perhaps the real issue with patent backlog is the time to first action.
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