European Patent Office (EPO)

Product Design

The European Patent Office is one of the two organs of the European Patent Organisation, the other being the Administrative Council.

The EPO is a goto for organisations big and small to patent their product. Its net-revenue of 2.4 billion euros per annum highlights its significance for companies wishing to safe-guard their products within the marketplace.

The Problem

Within the organisation patenting officers have carried out their work relying on masses of paper, which when shared must be done physically, and on-site within their Hague / Munich offices.

This has proven problematic, as many individuals employed to carry out studies aren’t always based in the Netherland or Germany, and may have stressed a resistance to relocating there. As such, the catchment area for scientists able to carry out patenting examinations becomes much smaller.

As such it was decided that the EPO would aim to become paperless by 2020. This would mean that a digital solution would replace mountains of paper, ensuring a consistent and sharable study could be created.

The Process

Due to the complex nature of the processes at the EPO I began by initiating a number of interviews with directors, examiners and formalities officers, in order to gauge a holistic understanding of the process. By doing so this ensured that problems associated could be identified and explored at the design stage. By developing these close relationships with the intended audience I was also able to ensure that all expansions of the product could be frequently tested with the intended audience.

At the point I joined the company there wasn’t a defined grid, or style guide applied, therefore to ensure speed going forward I created a modular approach which could support the team around me. This ensured we were working in a consistent and unified way, whilst allowing those with lesser design skills the ability to ‘drag-and-drop’ modules when trying to demonstrate their thinking.

Concepting

The concept phase brought insights to life, whilst providing teams the ability to create ideas, and in-turn test them on internal stakeholders.

I working in a team which produced the following:

  • Low-level wireframes / scamps
  • High-level prototypes
  • Testing scripts
  • Presentation material for key-stakeholders

Prototyping

Once the concept stage was complete we were able to turn our into something tangible within the prototyping phase. This allowed the team to test the service, and evolute and produce a refined business case and future roadmap for completion.

I lead the team through the following stages:

  • Creation and testing.
  • Synthesis and refinement.
  • Technical solution design.

Conclusion

This project allowed me to work along-side individuals of varying levels of digital experience, whilst understanding an industry I wasn’t familiar with at the start of the project. The project itself was based across two core locations (Munich and The Hague) meaning that I needed to balance my time and schedule more remotely than some projects I have worked on historically.