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Guide for applicants, Part 1: How to get a European patent

 
 
European search report
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While the formalities examination is in progress, the European search is performed. As already mentioned (point 17), the EPO will make every effort to speed up the search if you request this when filing the application (see Annex II, point 2). For European first filings see point 18.
Guid. B  
OJ 2010, 352
The search report is drawn up on the basis of the claims, with due regard to the description and any drawings. It mentions the documents available to the EPO when it is drawn up which may be taken into consideration in assessing novelty and inventive step.  
The search report is accompanied by an opinion on whether the application and the invention to which it relates meet the requirements of the EPC. 
The opinion is not issued if you have waived your right to receive the communication under Rule 70(2) EPC (see point 158) before the search report has been communicated to you. In this situation you will receive a first communication from the examining division instead.
The non-binding opinion is not published together with the search report but is available to the public by way of file inspection after publication of the application.  
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If the application contains more than one independent claim in the same category (see point 85) and none of the exceptions listed under Rule 43(2) applies, you will be invited to indicate, within a two-month period, the basis on which the search is to be carried out. If you fail to do so, the search will be carried out on the basis of the first independent claim in each category.
Similarly, if it is impossible to carry out a meaningful search on the basis of all or some of the subject-matter claimed, you will be invited to file, again within a two-month period, a statement indicating the subject-matter to be searched. Should your statement not be sufficient to overcome the deficiency, the EPO will issue a partial search report or a declaration that no meaningful search can be carried out.  
You should note that, in response to such an invitation for clarification, you may not amend the application documents. 
When the examining division assumes responsibility, it will invite you to delete the unsearched subject-matter from the application unless it finds that the objection was unjustified. 
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Immediately after it has been drawn up, the European search report is transmitted to you together with copies of any cited documents. If you require a second copy of the documents, you can obtain it by indicating it in the appropriate box on the request for grant form (refer to section 39 of the request for grant) when filing the application and by paying the prescribed administrative fee. 
Having received the search report, you may withdraw the application if you think it has no chance of success. If you decide to pursue the patent grant procedure (see point 155), you will have an opportunity to amend the application to reflect the results of the search (see points 171-176).
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If the search division considers that the application does not comply with the requirement of unity of invention (see point 69), it draws up a European search report on those parts which relate to the invention first mentioned in the claims. It informs you that, if the search report is to cover the other inventions, you must pay a further search fee in respect of each of them within a non-extendable period specified in it.
If you do not respond to this invitation, and if the examining division considers the search division's objection justified, you are deemed to want the application to proceed in respect of the invention for which the search report has been drawn up. The application must not include claims for subject-matter for which a further search fee has not been paid. You may however file a divisional application for such subject-matter as long as the respective time limit is still running (see points 208-212).
Guid. F-V, 11
Guid. C-III, 3
Any further search fees paid will be refunded on request if it emerges during examination proceedings that the search division's payment demand was not justified.  
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Upon drawing up the European search report, the search division determines the definitive content of the abstract and transmits it to you together with the search report.