The European Patent Organisation (EPO) and the Italian Patent and Trademark Office recently agreed that Italian bibliographic data up to April 2011 and Italian citations from October 2008 can now be accessed on EPO’s worldwide database.

Italy's position as one of the largest Member states of the European Patent Organisation means that its data is of relevance to many patent searchers. The recent availability of Italian data closes one of the largest gaps in the collection.

Italy's bibliographic and citation data is now also available through Espacenet and the Global Patent Index, as well as commercial provider services based on the EPO's data.

Over the last few years Italy has considerably changed its patent system. The Italian Patent and Trademark Office has been integrated into a new Directorate of the Ministry of Economical Development, and a new law entered into force with the aim of making intellectual property more powerful and useful to the Italian economy and industry. A major enhancement was represented by the introduction of the novelty search in 2008 in strict cooperation with the EPO.

Unfortunately, the digital availability of patent documentation remains a sensitive question. Applicants can file a patent with any regional chamber of commerce, making the creation of a reliable database challenging.

Citation data is also an essential means in patent searches, that may allow to discover publications that might not be found with other methods.

The publication of Italian citations is a result of the cooperation agreement with the EPO (in force since 1 July 2008), under which the EPO carries out prior art searches for Italian patent applications. The date of the first Italian publication with citation data in the database was the 1st of October 2008.

Efforts to deliver Italian data and citations on a regular basis in electronic format are underway. The Italian Patent and Trademark Office is working on setting up a data exchange in XML for the bibliographic data in the coming six to twelve months.

As of May 2011 more than 40,000 Italian publications reside in the EPO’s DOCDB database.