Quick Scan - a novelty search service in the Framework of EU-R&D Programmes
- The Quick Scan activity of the Innovation Programme
- Details of the Quick Scan Procedure
- Results of Quick Scan Activity
- Cost Effectiveness of Quick Scan
The use of novelty searches based on patent and technical literature to assess the innovativeness of research and development projects has long been promoted by patent and information experts. However, due to lack of funds and staff, as well as access problems, little use has been made of this tool especially small and medium sized enterprises. It is estimated that billions of ECUs are wasted yearly in Europe in re-inventing the wheel, i.e. partly or totally duplicating existing knowledge and inventions.
This section describes the systematic use of novelty searches for subsidised R&D activities in the framework of a project action line funded by the INNOVATION programme of the European Commission, DGXIII-D1. The evaluation of this activity shows that the main objectives, i.e. a) avoid wasting of scarce research funds, and b) providing added-value to contractors, have been met in a cost effective way.1. Introduction
In recent years, the patenting activities of European companies are lagging behind their main competitors in the US and Japan, as indicated for example by the 1994 European Report on Science and Technology Indicators(1). This is in line with a recent study launched by the European Patent Office(2) showing that 2/3 of all European SME’s generating inventions do not make use of the patent system at all. This is partly due to the high costs of patenting in Europe, as discussed in the recent paper by Straus(3). In addition, the EPO study indicates that technical and patent information is valued much lower by European companies than by their US and Japanese counterparts. Consequently, there is the danger that R&D activities of European enterprises and research institutions do not take into account the state of the art expressed in the patent and technical literature and therefore risk "re-inventing the wheel". It is estimated that billions of ECU are yearly spent in the EU by duplicating existing knowledge and inventions(4).
Patent and technical literature are, however, a valuable source of technical and also of non-technical information. According to expert estimates, 75% of the technical knowledge is exclusively expressed in the patent literature(5), with only a small part of appr. 10% of this actually being covered by valid patents - the rest is normally free to use! With its over 120.000 different technical subdivisions it allows for very precise technical searches. Further analysis of search results may provide additional information on market trends, on the competitive situation and on technological trends.2. The Quick Scan activity of the Innovation Programme
With a view to raising awareness for the patent information and patent protection system among European enterprises and research institutions and to providing added value to its contractors, the European Commission has implemented a supportive measure, called QUICK SCAN. This service was offered to 100 project contractors selected for an initial feasibility phase in the framework of the INNOVATION (Technology Validation and Technology Transfer) Projects call for proposals of 1995. The technical and innovative backgrounds of the proposals, which covered a wide variety of scientific and technical disciplines and came in different languages, were subjected to a novelty check and compared to the state of the art by the Search Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) at the Hague.
The main objectives of this QUICK SCAN activity were:
3. Details of the Quick Scan Procedure
- avoiding duplication of research results and thus promoting more efficient utilisation of financial resources in the public sector.
- raising awareness for the patent information and patent protection system.
On the basis of a preliminary investigation of the project proposals, the EPO decided whether a search was feasible (B-type) or not (A-type). The non-searchable proposals were classified according to:
- A1) The technical description was not sufficient and, therefore, not searchable, although the technical problem might have been well defined.
A2) The project deals mainly with software aspects and/or management methods and copyright laws might apply.
A3) The project deals mainly with subject matters not searchable in patent and technical databases (e.g. dissemination or technology diffusion aspects).
The proposals for which a full search was performed were further classified according to:
- B1) The search revealed no citations or only documents defining the general state of the art, which are not considered to be of any relevance.
B2) The search revealed documents of particular relevance. According to the documents cited, the project or part of it cannot be considered to be novel.
Fig. 1: Rating of proposals by EPO on 100 proposals, selected from the 1995 call for proposals for an initial feasibility phase.
Of the 100 selected proposals, the technical description of 87 among them were such that they could be searched by the EPO. of those, 30 were classified as being novel. In 57 cases the novelty of the whole project or of parts of it was questioned.
The contractors received the search report, including full text copies of all relevant documents, together with some background information and guidelines on how to possibly react to the search results. Depending on the above classification, the project consortia were asked to outline their specific patenting strategy, or to discuss in detail all relevant documents questioning the novelty of their project or to further specify the innovative approach of their project.
The result of the search report and the reaction of the project contractors were examined by an intellectual property rights expert, resulting in a concise report on the intellectual property situation of the proposal. This report normally commented on one or more of the following issues:
- the novelty/uniqueness of the proposal: cited documents from within/outside the project consortia; maturity of the technology, e.g. number of documents cited; etc.;
- the scope of the protection: know-how in public domain and/or valid national/international property rights and/or additional secret-know-how, etc.;
- intellectual property rights strategy: consortium lacks strategy; advised to consult patent lawyer; novel proposal and IPR protection possible; good IPR strategy and management.
All information was made available to the experts evaluating the feasibility phase report and deciding on further implementation phase funding.