12 May 2020

Good quality patent examination is a key foundation of a credible patent system. It clearly defines the scope of legal protection and parameters of a patent and provides confidence to applicants in making commercial decisions based on the examination outcomes.

Patent examiner training has traditionally been undertaken via face-to-face classroom style workshops. This approach is not always effective in delivering in-depth training and effective knowledge transfer that is sustainable in the long term. Effective patent examination training takes time and investment. Acknowledging this, IP Australia developed a distance learning program for patent examination training in overseas Intellectual Property (IP) offices.

Launched in 2013, the Regional Patent Examination Training (RPET) program is a modern, comprehensive and intensive competency-based training package. RPET aims to build patent examination capabilities of participating offices by:

  • improving the competency of examiners to conduct search and examination to international standards (Patent Cooperation Treaty standards), thereby ensuring consistency in examination and training.
  • embedding learning into the workplace; and
  • providing the ability to align domestic practices with international standards.

The program uses virtual lectures, face-to-face coaching, remote mentoring and online communities of practice facilitated by IP Australia’s experienced examiners.

After a critical mass of 50 trainees were trained through RPET, a second phase of the program was launched – RPET Mentoring. Under RPET Mentoring, IP Australia mentors have guided and mentored RPET graduates in each participating office to build and embed their own competency-based training programs, designed around the needs of their office. Participating offices are now successfully delivering these programs with cohorts of new trainees.

IP Australia's RPET program is a significant activity of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area Economic Cooperation Support Program, which is partially funded by the Australian Government. The World Intellectual Property Organization has also provided support for African participation in RPET.

RPET and RPET Mentoring have made significant contributions to improving examiner training internationally. The most common feedback we receive from participants is that the RPET program provides a successful platform to improve the quality of examination practice, using techniques that are easy to adopt.

More recently, the RPET Mentoring team collaborated with the European Patent Office (EPO) by providing their expertise in competency based training to develop a training model for the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) in South Africa. The EPO and CIPC leveraged IP Australia’s best practice techniques to assist in the development of an ideal training model for 48 newly recruited patent examiners, to create a more consistent and comprehensive approach to training. Our close relationship with the EPO allows us to partner with them and build on the synergies between the programs we deliver within the region and further afield.

Helping to enhance the consistency and quality of patent examination in South Africa, and indeed other offices, will over time contribute to greater confidence in the IP rights that are granted. This can lead to increased business confidence and in turn facilitates trade and technology transfer across regions.