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The following section contains subjective comments about the system that represent our editor's opinions, and should not be viewed as fact. Editor's opinions include positive and negative judgments about the product written in consideration of wider context, including related products and the industry at large.
The European Patent Office (EPO) is the undisputed worldwide leader in the collection and production of patent data, and as an organization the EPO believes that it has a mandate to make this data available for free to the public. The bibliographic , family, and legal status information produced by the EPO, as well as its extensive full text and image collections, make it a necessary source for almost every major commercial search provider (the exceptions being simple US –only databases, such as Google Patents, and companies which perform their own indexing, such as CAS or the Derwent World Patents Index). The low cost of licensing this data from the EPO allows commercial search providers to offer more economical search engines to the public, since they do not need to maintain any staff to collect, curate, or produce this data themselves.
Because it is so widely subscribed to, the EPO is a powerful force to be reckoned with in the world of online patent database producers. Any change in policy, data structure, or pricing is sure to have a ripple-down effect on the industry. Espacenet itself is a widely used free database which many commercial providers see as direct competition with their own services, forcing them to change and innovate.
The EPO’s application filing fees support its non-profit data collection and production efforts. With a guaranteed source of revenue, It is unlikely that this service will go offline anytime soon.