by Avraham Hermon, Senior Partner
Last month, Mr. Ofir Alon completed his 6-year term as Executive Director of the Israel Patent Office (ILPO).
At a farewell gathering in Tel Aviv hosted by Israel Patent Attorneys Association and other professional organizations, a number of speakers, including patent attorneys and colleagues at the ILPO, discussed a few of Mr. Alon’s many initiatives during his term. His accomplishments include the introduction of an AI-powered search engine for Israel Patents which became operational about two years ago, which my colleagues and I use on a regular basis. Another important program initiated during his tenure was a pilot program for issuing office actions in the English language; this has been effective in lowering patenting costs for applicants at the ILPO.
As Executive Director of the ILPO Mr. Alon also issued decisions on many patent and trademark matters. Reading his decisions was enjoyable as they were written methodically and included detailed reasoning for his decisions.
As indicated by the 2022 Annual Report of the ILPO, there has been significant growth in patent filings and grants over the course of Mr. Alon’s term. To his credit, the average examination time (from filing until end of examination) has dropped significantly, as evident in the graph, from about 48.3 months in 2018 to about 39.5 months in 2022.
On a personal level, I had the good fortune to work with Mr. Alon on a few occasions. On one of those occasions, after a large pharmaceutical company in Israel downsized its patent department, Mr. Alon offered assistance in job placement at the ILPO for former employees. Further, when several colleagues and I encountered what seemed to be an unannounced change in examination guidelines for many biotechnology patents, so as to drastically narrow the scope of any resultant patent claims in the field, in Mr. Alon we found an attentive ear. After hearing and understanding our concerns, he took action to reverse the change and thus to restore the status quo.
In his farewell remarks. Mr. Alon discussed the challenge that he faced during his tenure, namely, that of balancing the needs of his different constituents, the right of the patenting community to obtain solid and secure patent rights within a reasonable time, and the right of the public to clarity as to what is and is not covered by patents, and that the granted rights should be appropriate in their scope.
Although no replacement for Mr. Alon has yet been announced, I am hoping that the next Executive Director of the ILPO follows in his footsteps, and continues to improve the service that the ILPO provides, to all of its constituents.