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Guide for applicants, Part 2: PCT procedure before the EPO (Euro-PCT Guide)

 
 
General
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The objective of the international search is to discover relevant prior art. The PCT defines prior art as consisting of everything which has been made available to the public anywhere in the world by means of a written disclosure. Prior art is relevant if it is of assistance in determining whether the claimed invention is new and involves an inventive step.  
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The definition of prior art in Rule 33 PCT is valid exclusively for the international phase of the procedure. This means that during the European phase the EPO applies the criteria applicable under the EPC for determining the relevant prior Art. However, the scope of an international search is equivalent to that of a European search. This means that there is no difference between an international and a European search, either in respect of the method and quality of the search or in respect of the sources of prior art searched.
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The EPO conducts the international search in accordance with the ISPE Guidelines (see point 19). In a number of cases these guidelines leave it to the ISA concerned to choose between two or more (policy) options. A list of the options chosen by the EPO is provided in Annex IV.
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In accordance with the principle of supplementary application of the EPC, the EPO as ISA applies the Guidelines for Examination in the EPO where the ISPE Guidelines are silent (see points 16-21).