Statement from the Director General
Per A. Foss, Director General
Oslo, 1 March 2017
We responded well to the assignment given us by our owner and can report that our targets were met. Many indicators are pointing in the right direction, although a great deal still remains to be done. We are receiving more applications than in the past, revenue is higher than budgeted, and our cost control is good. Both users and staff express satisfaction with the Norwegian Industrial Property Office – as an IPR agency and as a place of work.
More good rights – efficiency, customer dialogue, quality
One of the Norwegian Industrial Property Office's two goals is to contribute to more good rights. It is up to each individual entity to choose whether to apply for rights in Norway, and the Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO) arranges the situation in various ways.
NIPO is continuing its work on improving efficiency. Customer dialogue has been strengthened and a high level of quality has been maintained in the processing of applications. In 2016, we granted more than 21 000 new rights to Norwegian and foreign businesses – rights that create a competitive edge and value. At the same time, we have seen a continued increase in the number of applications from Norwegian applicants to NIPO. Along with survey results showing that the customers are satisfied, it tells us that we are both skilled and competitive, and that our efforts to raise the level of knowledge on IPR in the trade and industry is producing results over time.
Good case administration and predictable processing time are important to our users. NIPO has for several years had a large backlog of unprocessed patent applications. In 2016, we introduced simplified processing of applications that have already been approved by individual other patent authorities, and the backlog has now been substantially reduced. During the course of the year, we also reduced the time it took to have a patent approved, by two months, and we have managed to finish processing many of the very oldest patent applications.
NIPO processed more applications in 2016 than in both 2014 and 2015, with fewer employees. This is an outcome of several efficiency improvement measures. In 2016, we launched e-payment solutions for most of our services. The solutions are popular and already handle more than 75% of all payments for renewals and annual fees.
Efficient and customer-friendly application processes will contribute to providing applicants with more good rights. During the year, we completed "The Customer Shows the Way", a service design project that provided us with valuable insight into how our users experience the application process and customer dialogue. As a follow-up action, we started a project aimed at developing solutions for better digital dialogue with applicants before, during and after processing of applications. The project is supported by the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) through the co-financing scheme for digitisation in central government.
The processing of applications at NIPO has to be both efficient and demonstrate good quality. In 2016, NIPO became one of the first entities in Norway to be recertified under the ISO 9001:2015 standard. Our own measurements of quality and various customer surveys show that we essentially meet all the established quality targets for the processing of applications. The quality indicators at the same time showed that that the intensified processing of the backlog of patents presents us with quality challenges, and the customer survey shows that we should strengthen the dialogue with applicants while applications are being processed. We will follow this up in 2017.
Better use of intellectual property assets – upgrading of skills
NIPO's second objective is to contribute to better use of intellectual property assets in Norwegian trade and industry. The parliamentary report on intellectual property rights and assets from 2013 pointed to a need for better knowledge about intellectual property assets and rights, both in trade and industry and in the higher education sector. A progress meeting on the parliamentary report in the spring of 2016 showed that many of the recommendations in the report have been implemented, such as adaptation of rules and schemes, further development of NIPO, schemes to counteract piracy and counterfeiting, and the development of a broader knowledge base on IPR. The meeting showed, at the same time, that there is a continuing need to improve knowledge about the use of intellectual property assets.
Knowhow, technology and understanding of the market are examples of intellectual property assets that are important to the business community and that are difficult to put to good use without the necessary knowledge of patenting, trademark registration and design registration. In 2016, we drew up an action plan for knowledge transfer from NIPO to priority target groups. We are now working to a greater extent with business clusters, incubators and other actors that offer policy instruments with which to achieve innovation.
Better use of intellectual assets also means making use of knowledge that already exists, and NIPO contributed to this by making available information from patent databases. During the year, we developed a new service in which we systematise and analyse large quantities of patent information, firstly for publicly funded R&D projects. Experience so far is positive, and we will develop this service further.
The various courses held at NIPO contributed to upgrading of skills, and were in great demand in 2016, with around 1 400 participants. We now stream most of the courses online and are consequently making them available to more and more people around Norway.
The aim with the transfer of skills from NIPO is put trade and industry and other users in a better position to exploit their intellectual property assets. Proof that we have been successful comes if the users themselves find that this knowledge has utility value. Both customer surveys and specific feedback show that the customers are very satisfied, and more than 90% say that the courses are very useful, and that they are able to put the knowledge they have gained at our events to use.
To counteract piracy and counterfeiting, a network of authorities was established in 2015 against infringement of intellectual property rights, as well as a website, buyreal.no (velgekte.no). In 2016, NIPO, together with other government agencies, implemented a number of measures to make these problems known, aimed in particular at the travel industry. The Consumer Ombudsman became a part of the network in 2016, and it now comprises ten different agencies.
The NIPO website and the electronic search services are by far our largest information channels, with more than 300 000 visits in 2016. In 2016, we launched new website pages with a responsive design and with a structure better suited to less experienced users.
Use of resources
The use of resources in NIPO in 2016 overall was in line with budget. Our staff delivered efficient processing of applications, and this is reflected in measurements of quality and how satisfied our customers are. We implemented several major development projects in parallel.
NIPO aims to use as much as possible of the available resources for the benefit of customers. With effect from 2016 we have introduced time recording for all activities at NIPO. The system provides an overview of time spent on the different tasks we perform. In 2016, more than 90% of the resources were used for the agency role, with processing of applications accounting for the greater part. In future we will use the figures from 2016 to calculate the effect of efficiency improvement measures we implement, for example new digitisation solutions.
In 2016, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and NIPO assessed how the various services at NIPO should be funded (user funding or funding through grants). The review showed good agreement between the level of fees and charges and the level of costs for the different services. Overall, it is therefore considered that NIPO utilised its economic and human resources in a good, efficient and appropriate way in 2016.
Expectations for 2017
2017 will be an important year for the Norwegian Industrial Property Office, in which we need to follow up initiatives we launched in 2016, such as further digitisation, patent mapping and the action plan for better use of intellectual assets. At the same time, we must continue our efforts to make the processing of applications more efficient and user-friendly. Other IPR agencies, among others EPO and EUIPO, are now seeing the effects of their various strategic initiatives, in the form of increased production, reduced backlog of patents and faster processing of applications. This increases competition and expectations of NIPO, but also provides an opportunity to learn.
In 2017, NIPO is also due to create a strategy for the period up to 2018. This strategy should, among other things, look more closely at what role NIPO is to fulfil in the innovation chain and what level of ambition NIPO should have for knowledge transfer to trade and industry and the higher education sector and show how we should proceed in work aimed at digitising our services.