Quality in the processing of applications
Right quality means that the result we supply to our customers is correct and delivered at the agreed time, so that we are predictable in relation to our customers. The quality system at NIPO was re-certified in 2016 and was changed over to the internationally recognised standard ISO 9001:2015. Among other things, the new standard sets stricter requirements for environmental analysis and risk management, something NIPO has been working on systematically for several years.
Quality control of decisions
As in previous years, we carried out quality measurements in 2016 in all specialised areas to verify that requirements corresponded to practice. This provides us with a basis on which to assess whether we fulfil external and internal requirements for correct decisions, and a basis on which to identify possible improvements.
In a measurement of quality we select an area which is crucially important in carrying out correct case processing, and check a random selection of cases to see whether we fulfil the quality requirements for the different specialist areas. The results of quality measurements show that we fulfil the requirements for correct quality in almost 95% of the selected cases for all specialist areas combined. This is one percentage point down on the result obtained in 2015.
Approved results are obtained in most areas, but we identified several shortcomings in the area of "fast track processing of patent applications". We will take measures to raise quality and carry out a subsequent check to make sure that the measures which are taken have the desired effect.
In 2016, we also conducted six internal audits to make internal processes more efficient and improve the quality of our work. An internal audit is carried out by holding internal interviews to examine whether work processes are sensibly arranged, and to come up with improvements both internally and for the customers.
In 2016, we continued the systematic efforts to reduce the risk of errors and to improve the quality of data in our databases, among other things with regard to customer data and the status of applications.
Norwegian Board of Appeal for Industrial Property Rights (KFIR)
Appeals against decisions by NIPO in patent, trademark and design applications are considered by the Norwegian Board of Appeal for Industrial Property Rights (KFIR). The number of appeals is around 100-150 per year and has remained at this level for many years. 127 appeals were received in 2016. Most of the appeals, as in previous years, concerned trademarks. The number of appeals is low in comparison with the number of decisions made by NIPO annually, which is around 21 000.
There are various reasons why applicants appeal against our decisions, and the number of appeals therefore does not automatically reflect the quality of decisions at NIPO. It is nevertheless useful to look at the assessments and the outcome of appeals considered by KFIR.
Trademarks: Of the 96 trademark appeals lodged in 2016, 55 have not yet been decided by KFIR. In the remaining cases, the NIPO decisions were upheld in 23 cases, while the decisions were wholly or partially annulled in 9 cases. The other cases were either dismissed or appealed to a court of law.
Designs: There were no appeals in the area of designs in 2016.
Patents: The 20 appeals on patents lodged in 2016 are still being processed. In 2016, KFIR considered 11 patent decisions appealed before 2015 and NIPO decisions were overturned in three of these cases.
Resumption: With regard to appeals against NIPO decisions in cases concerning failure to meet deadlines (trademarks, designs and patents), KFIR upheld the decision in four cases, one was dismissed, one was shelved and one is still being processed. NIPO continuously assesses its own practices in the light of KFIR decisions.
Business names: Three complaints concerning business names were filed in 2016. These have not been settled by KFIR.
NIPO considers the figures to show that KFIR and NIPO have harmonised practices, and that the quality of NIPO decisions is good. The parties can present new documentation for KFIR processing, and this has led in several cases to the content of the appeal case being different than in the case considered by NIPO. There have been only a small number of cases in which KFIR has disagreed in its understanding of law with NIPO. These cases have led to a change of practice at NIPO. It is otherwise important to emphasise that many cases are the object of judicious and specific assessment. It is natural that there is divergence in a few such cases, and this is not a sign of different understanding of practice and general legal norms.
Harmonisation of practice with EUIPO and EPO
It is important for Norwegian trade and industry that rules on processing applications for patents, trademarks and designs are applied identically in different countries, so that processing is predictable for someone who applies for registration in several countries.
In addition to the decisions from KFIR and the courts, NIPO follows European practice in EPO (European Patent Office), EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office), EU law and the European Court of Justice.
Trademarks and designs
In the area of trademarks and designs, NIPO is an active participant in meetings of EUIPO and in the EUIPO Convergence Programme. Countries cooperate through this programme to make case processing practice in EUIPO and in the national European trademark and design agencies more uniform. It can be mentioned that every six months NIPO holds a breakfast meeting on this practice for the IPR sector, so that they are also kept up-to-date on European practice.
In the area of patents, a comparison is made of case processing in EPO and Nordic Patent Institute (NPI) (and consequently case processing for example in NIPO and the Danish Patent and Trademark Office). In 2015 and 2016, 49 PCT applications were processed by both NPI and EPO. Analysis to date suggests that there are few differences in quality between case processing in NPI and EPO. Individual areas have nevertheless been identified in which there are differences and a tendency towards differing practice. The results will form the basis for possible measures to further strengthen harmonisation between NPI and EPO. The comparisons were considered to be useful in harmonisation work, and a new survey based on 50 PCT applications is planned in 2017.