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Prémio Europeu Boas Practicas do Governo Electrónico

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António Campinos (INPI - Instituto Nacional da Propriedade Industrial)


Case Abstract

This project is an element of the service modernization and qualification strategy implemented in the Portuguese Industrial Property Office as a part of the more general egovernment national policy, with the main purpose of enabling the easy online access to IP information free of charge. Another purpose is to ensure the public transparency of the Office activities, allowing searches by legal status, applicants, and other Register data, as well as by requested Act (with status data). The project also enables the online filing of applications and other IP rights management Acts, like electronic payment of renewals and other taxes. Besides allowing for a modern alternative to actions formerly only possible by client physical presence in the Office or thru classic mail, the project also propitiates lower fees and a much extended service availability (24 hours/365 days), as well as elimination of physical travel costs, faster procedure and simpler processing workflow for IP related Acts. We estimate that the project directly entails cost reductions around 3,9 million euros per year and supplies the market with services free of charge evaluated at 3,7 million euros.

Description of the case

SectorCrime, Justice and Law, Education, Science and Research

Spread of service deliveryNational

Project sizeImplementation: €300-499,000.

Target UsersCitizen, Business (industry), Business (SME), Business (free agent), Administrative, Intermediaries, Civil society, Other

Target GroupThe objective of the project is to encompass a large universe of different entity types, chiefly final clients/customers (such as enterprises and companies) and mediators (like patent attorneys, lawyers and legal representatives). All of the 8.3 million resident citizens over 18 years old, as well as nearly 630 thousand companies can use the system directly. It also may be used by non-residents for searches and information retrieval free of charge, but non-residents may need legal representation to benefit of online filing and IP Act requests.

Although the project users need only a PC with a browser and Internet connection, there exist partnership implementation variants together with several Portuguese Administration and public entities, in such a way as to allow access from places where other essential enterprise public Acts need to be performed (such as commercial registration offices, notaries, etc.) or enterprise support and investigation centres are available (like UIPP Network : Units for the Industrial Property Promotion). Integrated in the project facilities are 15 information centres all over the country, where hardware and skilled help are available to the users and a free telephonic help line is sponsored by the Portuguese Patent Office. Further 31 centres with similar functionalities will also be shortly available. Thus, convenient access to the system functionalities is granted to those who don’t have the technological wherewithal or are unskilled in its use (even if only modest Internaut abilities are required) which is particularly important in a country where only 24% of homes have broad band.


Policy Context

The “@INPI” project is included in the general modernization policy that the Portuguese IP Office (INPI) has been pursuing since 2000, aiming its efforts to qualification and improvement of its provided services. These efforts have been duly recognized by INPI’s certification according International Standard EN ISO 9001:2000 but, more to the point provided a great simplification of our ability to supply good products in the trademark area, as well as to better manage all the IP rights in general.

Furthermore, the project is also compliant with the Ministry of Justice strategy, aimed to ease the bureaucracy of the judicial system and render it friendlier to enterprises and the common citizen. This strategy itself is just a part of the general Portuguese Government one, and the project belongs to a national initiative called SIMPLEX (in fact, points 200 and 201 of Simplex 2006 and 226 of Simplex 2007). This initiative, thru its technological program component, aims to raise the IP awareness and the number of national IP applications of technical scope.

There is also a strong correlation between the project and the European strategy for e-government, as a step for growth promotion and employment increase policies by fostering of innovation and competitiveness – known as “Lisbon’s Agenda” – particularly in connection with SMEs. Also strongly connected with the project are the EC policies to promote Investigation, Information Society, Internal Market and Enterprises by developing the IP System and enforcing IP rights, particularly through the contribution of this initiative to bigger dimension European projects, such as the 6th Framework Program (ip4inno-Industrial Property for Innovation Project), Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Program 2007-2013 (IPR Awareness and Enforcement Project), 7th Framework Program (Portugal Inova Net), and i2010-a European Information Society for growth and employment.

Multi-channel issues

The now implemented project adds a new online channel (Internet) to the traditional offline channels (such as local, postal, fax and so on). The new channel integrates with the other ones at the back-office level, sharing the same productive procedures, the same workflow and the same informatics applications.

At the Front-office level, there are also important complementarities with the traditional channels. The project does not limit itself to add new technologies to the classic channels, but also allows for an effective choice of the channel by the client (online or offline) considering his own technological ability and his bigger or smaller need for support, without sacrificing legal effectiveness in all the channels.

There are incentives to online use, particularly through the transference to the client of the benefits of greater efficiency and reliability of the online channel, as well as discounts on fees that can reach 30%.

This new online channel has been unquestionably well received by the users, since 72% of all requested Acts use it, despite lack of publicity and the recent availability. The project also entails, of course, less paper consumption, lower travel costs, greater availability of service and shorter execution time, as well as economy of human resources for the Office.

Impact, innovation and results


The main benefits of the Project can be verified at several levels, particularly at the citizen, business and organization level.

Firstly, with this Project, searches were made available to the public in the Internet free of charge and customers now have the possibility to consult INPI’s industrial property rights Data Bases without leaving their houses or work places. As a consequence, the number of searches increased enormously, from around 6.800 paid searches (2005), before the implementation of the project, to around 450.000 free searches (2007 projection), which means availability in the market of free services evaluated at least in 2,9 millions euros per year. Considering also the elimination of travel and communication costs, this comes to a further 1.8 million euros per year. There were also some internal savings in the Office, since it was possible to allocate one full time person to other tasks and still another half time one, bringing a cost reduction of around 50 thousand euros per year. By contrast, the project caused a reduction in the number of paid searches, which diminished the Office income by an estimated 19 thousand euros per year. Nevertheless, although the main purpose of INPI with the project, since we are a public organization, was to bring less expense and added value services to customers and to promote the use of the IP system by the general citizens and enterprises, we are now expecting a ROI of 2%.

Secondly, the other component of the project – the online filing – enables the submission of IP applications with a price discount of 30%, and the request of other Acts also with a price discount of 10%. This, and that includes the expansion of the INPI’s public attendance network, translate in a net benefit to society of around 780 thousand euros per year to which must be added the reduction of travel and communication costs, estimated in 2,1 million euros per year. At Office level, the reduction of the number of customers locally attended and the increased efficiency of the internal workflow allowed the reallocation of three employees to other tasks, with the consequent savings of nearly 100 thousand euros per year. Besides, the discounts made available thru the online filing were rewarded with a considerable increase of applications, so that no net reduction of income resulted. In fact, the overall result has an estimated ROI of 11%, considering only the benefits and costs to the Office.

The total benefit to society stemming from this project is estimated at 7,7 million euros per year with zero costs. To the Office, the project is expected to bring a total benefit of 150 thousand euros per year and total costs of 110 thousand euros, which represents a net benefit of 40 thousand euros.

Finally, it’s very important to bring out that, since the first component of the project – Searches Online – was made available in April 2006, the number of searches has been continuously increasing, and has now tripled. The second component of project was launched at the end of December 2006 and now, only five months after the implementation, the number of Acts requested through the Internet already has a share of 45%, whereas the online filings have themselves a share of 80%. And it’s still expected a continuous growth of the number of online requests and filings.


The innovative characteristics of the project are, above all, its integrated conception and market approach. They give the project a distinct character from similar ones abroad. That, we think, are unique throughout Europe and even further. Considering technology, the main innovation is the available search tools, based in an algorithm that allows quantification of phonetic similarity, going well beyond the textual searches.

Particularly relevant is the fact that Acts demanding positive identification of the requester are accomplished by applying to their electronically generated documents a qualified digital signature. This provides for the archiving of a signed electronic document remaining legally binding in a court of Law, and compliant with the applicable e-transaction criteria (integrity, non-repudiation, authenticity). To automatically create the signed document, the requester only needs a browser Internet connected to the Office servers and a qualified digital certificate. This particular use of digital certification is innovative in the universe of IP, since there is no client side specific component, the request process being fully a web based interactive transaction. These functionalities are now available for 98% of all the Acts requestable to it, including applications, rendering the Office a true online one.

Also important are the market issues. The project was conceived from the beginning with a logic of free access to information, increased transparency of procedure and, above all, transfer to the customer of all the benefits productivity gain benefits. A decentralized network of attendance centres was also mounted, giving users the benefit of personalised and inclusive support on procedure and substantive content.

This approach has been, in our point of view, extremely effective to stimulate the inclusion and participation of citizens and enterprises in the digital society, in a country where the general access to information and communication technologies is still judged insufficient.

Track record of sharing

The project has great transfer potential to other public organizations, especially to other IP Offices.

However, notwithstanding the transfer potential of the technological components – such as the phonetic search algorithm – it is the model of the project that may best configure a «good practice» paradigm to be reproduced elsewhere.

This means that, more than simply copying the project as it was conceived and implemented in Portugal, the really relevant point is that it shows a clear and effective way to achieve an «all online» Office, safe and with benefit to the customers, without forgetting the special needs of users less proficient in IT use that may be found in less developed countries. Thus, the project paradigm embodies success were others have failed.

It should be said, for the «good practice» record, that we have already shared the model of the project in some forums, such as PATLIB 2006 (organized by the European Patent Office) and some organizations, such as the Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the Industrial Property Office of Brazil. There are also ongoing partnerships at the national level, within the Ministry of Justice were the Office is integrated.

Management approach

This project implementation fits in a strategy for the Portuguese IP Office modernization and qualification of services that has been in place since the beginning of 2000. The implementation of this strategy entailed a profound reorganization of the information systems, an increase of employee’s competence, considerable structural adjustment in the Office, and management modernization. The effort was intensified in 2003, with the implementation of a new legislation allowing for greater process efficiency and effectiveness, as controlled and proven by the raise in productivity and the higher client satisfaction level. These results caused the Office to become the first public Institute in national Administration to be certified by International Quality Standards according with ISO 9001:2000, and one of the few IP Offices in Europe to have this certification for the entire scope of its activities. It has been this approach of change management, qualification and excellence of service that allowed the project the true benefits of client auscultation and analysis of IP environment that were performed. The main result, besides the qualification of Portuguese public Administration to which the Office belongs, has been an expressive increment in the utilization of the IP system by the economy verified in 2006, an all time record number of patents and trademarks being registered in that year.

Lessons learnt

The three main teachings that may be gleaned from this project implementation experience are the following:

- The availability of public information relating the clients’ solicitations and the public administration corresponding services in a quick, simple and free way, enforces the trust of the citizens in the public Administration and the transparency of procedure promotes a culture of efficiency and strictness;

- The free diffusion of information in the IP system has a positive effect on it’s use (the number of applications and other Acts has been growing significantly);

- The implementation of the online relationship with the clients, when well-adjusted to their needs and if mutual advantages are present, creates benefits for both intervenients, clients and suppliers (a so called Win-Win logic);

These teachings are applicable to similar initiatives if suitably adapted and may have significant impact, not only about the way public Administration is seen, but mainly on the results of specific policies, like truly efficient use of the judicial system and legal enforcement, quick resolution of litigation and substantive IP support to SMEs.

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