| Europäisches Patentamt

Fighting coronavirus – updated support for researchers and innovators

Coronavirus particles

One year after its initial launch, the EPO has updated and
expanded the information in its „Fighting coronavirus“ platform to reflect the rapidly-changing
technology landscape in the struggle against the pandemic. The 35 search
strategies added to the platform today reflect e.g. new interest in a wider
range of existing medicines that could be suitable for re-purposing as COVID-19
therapeutics, and a wider variety of existing disinfectant technologies useful
for making public spaces and transport safer. There are now over 300 search
strategies in this free resource, an almost threefold increase from the
original platform, all compiled by dozens of EPO experts.

As a world leader in supplying technical information, the EPO
took the initiative last June to support researchers, businesses and
decision-makers by sharing patent information on technologies which are useful
in combating the novel coronavirus SAR-CoV-2 or in treating COVID-19. This
expanding resource has been visited almost 50 000 times in the last 12 months,
earning praise from many quarters. The platform now encompasses such diverse
technologies as vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, healthcare informatics,
building and vehicle design (e.g. to minimise transmission), smartphone apps as
well as everyday items like masks and disinfectants. Innovation has flourished
in many different areas, and the technical information in patent documents are
often published nowhere else.

Because the volumes of potentially relevant patent documents
can be bewildering (e.g. hundreds or even thousands of documents just for one
type of vaccine), EPO patent examiners and data analysts created these
ready-made search strategies to help researchers easily focus on the topics
that are most relevant to their own work. These searches run in Espacenet, the EPO’s
free online database that contains over 120 million patent documents from over
100 countries.

The platform also includes videos and podcasts from seven
inspirational scientists working in the fields of healthcare or satellite
tracking (essential for contact tracing).

Patent applications are initially confidential and are typically
published some 18 months after their first filing date. This means that many of
the innovations conceived since the first wave struck early in 2020 are only beginning
to appear in the patent databases now, with many more expected to be published
in the coming months and years. However, a great many inventions which are
relevant today were described in patent applications filed in response to the earlier
SARS and MERS outbreaks (of 2002-2004 and 2012-2015 respectively). This is why
so many documents already appear in the databases as they relate to these
previous coronavirus epidemics.

For applicants who require a fast track patent procedure,
regardless of the technology they are developing, the EPO offers accelerated
prosecution of European patent applications.