The European Patent Office is aiming to speed the patenting process and reduce its costs by bringing in outsourcer Logica to set up a new fully digital patent office.
Logica will establish a secure case management system that will include patent searching, filing applications, publication, examination, and the handling of legal remedies like opposition and appeals.
The EPO says the new system will reduce the number of applicant-EPO interactions "significantly" which could result in annual savings of "tens of millions of euros" for the user community.
The new case management system will support the filing of 250,000 patent applications the EPO receives annually, plus the electronic handling of some 2.5 million transactions being processed.
Some users will begin using the new process for filing from April 2013. The project will then be rolled out gradually until 2015.
National patent offices in Europe will also benefit from the project, through plans to offer them the new online filing tool under the EPO's co-operation policy with its 38 member states.
EPO president Benot Battistelli said: "Our objective is to modernise our IT infrastructure in a way that not only benefits the EPO through a more streamlined grant process, but which will also allow companies, researchers and inventors to realise important efficiency gains when using the patent system.
In other patent news the city of Dusseldorf recently said it was expanding its patent court to handle more cases, hoping to land an important role in the European Union's planned Unified Patent Court system. The court has recently heard cases pitting Apple against Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics.