Terms and conditions of use for the website of the European Patent Office

  1. Scope of application, modifications
  2. Purpose of the Website, modifications, access
  3. User obligations, registration
  4. Content
  5. Copyright, use of content
  6. Technical errors and malfunctions, availability
  7. Security
  8. Liability
  9. Forums
  10. Web-based transactions 
  11. Specific terms and conditions of use for Espacenet
  12. Specific terms and conditions of use for the EPO Online Services portal
  13. Specific terms and conditions for the patent translate service
  14. Data protection
  15. Protocol on Privileges and Immunities
  1. Scope of application, modifications

    1.1. Access to, and use of, any part of the website of the European Patent Office (hereinafter "the Website"), any document, material or other information, including text, images, sound and software (hereinafter "Information") made available on the Website and any of the services provided via the Website (hereinafter "Services") are governed by these terms and conditions of use (hereinafter "Terms and Conditions") and constitute acceptance of these Terms and Conditions by the user.

    1.2. These Terms and Conditions may be superseded by other terms and conditions applicable to individual services or parts of the Website, irrespective of whether or not these Terms and Conditions expressly refer to such other terms and conditions.

    1.3. The European Patent Organisation (EPO) reserves the right to amend these Terms and Conditions at any time by posting amended Terms and Conditions on the Website. Such amendments take effect on the date on which they are posted. Users are entitled to object to them within two weeks of posting. Continued use of the Website or its services constitutes acceptance of the changes concerned. If a user explicitly objects to any new terms and conditions, the EPO is entitled to revoke his access rights.

    1.4. If any provision of these Terms and Conditions is for any reason held to be invalid, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, such unenforceability does not affect any other provision; the Terms and Conditions are then to be construed as if they had never contained the provision(s) in question and are to be interpreted, in so far as possible, in such a way as to maintain their original intent.

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  2. Purpose of the Website, modifications, access

    2.1. The general purpose of the Website is to enhance public access to information about the EPO and its activities and, in particular, to grant access to documents held by the European Patent Office in accordance with applicable legal provisions; it will also offer additional services, such as facilities for interactive communication with the EPO and/or other users (subject to the specific provisions in Section ‎9 and any other additional terms and conditions of use ) and for web-based transactions (subject to the specific provisions in Section ‎10 and any other specific terms and conditions of use).

    2.2. Subject to any legal provision governing access to documents held by the European Patent Office in electronic form, the EPO reserves the right to modify, limit or discontinue - in full or in part and without prior notice - the Services and Information available on the Website at any time, to restrict access to the Website and to deny, without notice and at its sole discretion, any user's access to the Website or any part thereof.

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  3. User obligations, registration

    3.1. Users of the Website must comply with all applicable laws and regulations. They must refrain from violating or attempting to violate the EPO's network security, and, in particular, from uploading or attaching virus-containing or corrupted files or any software or programs that might damage the operation of another user's computer. Users must furthermore refrain from restricting, or attempting to restrict in any way access to or use of the Website or any Services by other users (for example by generating, whether manually or in an automated fashion, unusually high numbers of service accesses).

    The Website is not intended to be a source for bulk downloads of data. Users who wish to download large amounts of data should contact website@epo.org .

    3.2. Some of the Services available on this Website require prior registration. Users must provide correct and complete information when registering, and update it if necessary. They must not misuse any access authorisation granted to them (for example by transferring data to unauthorised third persons). By registering, users agree to being contacted by the EPO by e‑mail.

    3.3. Registered users are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of their account and password to prevent unauthorised access to that account. Users must take all necessary steps to keep their password secure and must inform the EPO without delay at website@epo.org if it is being or could be used without authorisation.

    3.4. In the event of any violation of the above user obligations, the EPO is entitled to revoke the user's access rights without prior notice.

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  4. Content

    4.1. Unless otherwise stated, the Information is of a general nature only and not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular case, individual or entity. The EPO cannot guarantee that the Information is always comprehensive, complete, accurate and up-to-date. Consequently, the EPO accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from reliance on the Information.

    4.2. The Information in no case constitutes professional or legal advice.

    4.3. Paragraph 1 of this section does not apply to:

    1. European patent applications and European search reports (A documents) and European patent specifications (B documents) made available on the "European Publication Server" portal in accordance with and to the extent prescribed in the decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 12 July 2007 concerning the form of publication of European patent applications, European search reports and European patent specifications (OJ Special edition No. 3, 2007, D. 3) and previous decisions superseded by that decision;
    2. files of European patent applications and patents made available via the European Patent Register online service in accordance with and to the extent prescribed in the decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 12 July 2007 on the inspection of files (OJ Special edition No. 3, 2007, J. 2) and previous decisions superseded by that decision;
    3. the Register of European patents made available via the European Patent Register online service;
    4. the issues of the European Patent Bulletin published since 1 January 2005;
    5. the officially certified PDF files of the Official Journal of the European Patent Office published since 1 January 2014.

    4.4. Official documents published or intended for publication in paper form (such as the European Patent Convention and its protocols) and HTML versions of the Official Journal of the European Patent Office are made available on the Website for users' convenience only. It cannot be guaranteed that they accurately replicate the originals.

    The data and information on the legal status of patents subsequent to their grant are provided to the European Patent Office by the respective national patent authorities; they are displayed as received, without warranty of any kind and for information purposes only. The national patent authorities remain solely responsible for the accuracy of the data and information they provide. In order to obtain authoritative legal status information, users should consult the appropriate national patent authority.

    4.5. Where parts of the Information bear the name of their author(s) or are otherwise clearly attributable to a person or institution not directly affiliated to the EPO (e.g. recorded speeches or postings in Forums as defined in Section ‎9), they do not necessarily reflect the views of the EPO, which cannot guarantee their accuracy and reliability.

    4.6. The EPO does not make any representation or issue any guarantee, either express or implied, as to the accuracy, availability, suitability or content of information or services hyperlinked from the Website. Reference on the Website to third-party events, statements, services or products does not necessarily constitute the endorsement or support by the EPO for such events, statements, services or products, which remain the sole responsibility of the third party concerned.

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  5. Copyright, use of content

    5.1. Subject to legal provisions exempting official publications from copyright, all Information published on the Website is protected by copyright and owned or controlled by the EPO or the party credited as its provider or author. The EPO reserves all rights to the extent possible under copyright law.

    5.2. Without prejudice to paragraph 3 below, users may use the Information obtained directly from the Website without acquiring a copyright or other proprietary rights to it, unless otherwise stated and subject to the following:

    1. When such Information is distributed or reproduced, it must appear accurately and the Website must be cited as its source.
    2. When such Information is used to create adaptations by translation, conversion, modification or the creation of other derivative works the user must ensure that
      - he takes reasonable steps to label or demarcate the alterations or otherwise clearly indicate that changes have been made to the original Information
      - the author of the Information and/or the party credited as its provider - whichever appears on the Website - is mentioned, and the Website is cited as its source, and
      - the right to reproduce and distribute any such adaptation is explicitly granted to any third party, under the same conditions as in the present Section.
    3. Where users establish links to a specific part or site of the Website, the Website must be the sole element of the browser's window, i.e. it must not appear within another website's frame.
    4. This right to use does not allow the user to copy all - or a substantial part of - data, data structure and software of EPO databases made available on the Website; in particular, it does not allow any use of data mining, robots, or similar data-gathering and extraction tools.
    5. Any commercial use of the content of EPO databases available on the Website to provide database search or information retrieval services, including marketing-related activities such as, but not limited to, search aids to the EPO or third parties, requires the conclusion of a separate Licence Agreement with the EPO.

    No other use of the Information is permitted without prior written authorisation from the EPO.

    5.3. As an exception to the above,

    1. the reproduction, publication or reprinting of parts of the Information which bear the name of their author(s) or are otherwise clearly attributable to a person not directly affiliated to the EPO (e.g. recorded speeches), whether in whole or in part, in print or by electronic means, requires prior written authorisation from the EPO or the author;
    2. the EPO's official logo and registered trademarks remain protected and may not be used or reproduced without the EPO's prior written consent, which may be requested at website@epo.org;
    3. photographs and other graphical or image material may not be reproduced, published or reprinted without the EPO's prior written consent, unless the photographs and material are expressly made available for download.

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  6. Technical errors and malfunctions, availability

    6.1. The EPO aims at minimising technical errors and malfunctions. However, some data or other parts of the Information may have been created or structured in files or formats that are not error-free. The EPO cannot guarantee that the underlying files and the formats used are error-free and will not cause the user's systems to malfunction.

    In particular, the EPO cannot guarantee that XML data for documents published prior to 1 January 2006 accurately replicates the originals. Unless otherwise stated, only the PDF and SGML versions of such documents are accurate replications or electronic publications of the originals within the meaning of the decisions of the President referred to in Section 4.3 above. The HTML view of XML data is in all cases for users' convenience only, and cannot be guaranteed to reflect accurately the underlying XML data. 

    6.2. The EPO cannot guarantee that the Website and the Services will always be available. Whilst the EPO is committed to ensuring that the availability of the Website will be essentially uninterrupted and that transmissions will be error-free, this cannot be guaranteed. Access to the Website and its Services may also occasionally be suspended, restricted or impeded to permit repairs, maintenance or the introduction of new services or facilities. 

    6.3. The EPO accepts no responsibility with regard to such problems (including, but not limited to, failure of performance, computer virus, communication line failure, alteration of content, etc.) encountered as a result of using the Website or any linked external sites.

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  7. Security

    For some Services and parts of the Website, the EPO offers data security by means of secure socket layer (SSL) technology. A number of Services may be accessed by authorised users by way of a self-defined username and password, while others require identification by means of electronic signature in the form of a smart card issued or recognised by the European Patent Office. The issuance, use and recognition of smart cards are governed by specific terms and conditions of use.

    However, the EPO cannot guarantee that data transmitted is absolutely secure at all times from attack by third parties, nor can it guarantee the absolute security of the data transmission process.

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  8. Liability

    8.1. Without prejudice to Article 9 of the European Patent Convention, the EPO shall be  liable only for damage caused by an intentional or grossly negligent breach of duty by its employees, statutory representatives or auxiliary persons. Where a claim for compensation for damage against the EPO is based on simple negligence on the part of the EPO (including the persons listed above), the EPO shall be liable only to the extent that the claim rests on an injury to life, body or health or is attributable to a violation of an essential contractual obligation. In the latter case, if the claimant is an entrepreneur (within the meaning of Section 14 of the German Civil Code), the EPO's liability is limited to typical and foreseeable damage.

    The EPO does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of data and information on the legal status of patents subsequent to their grant originating from other authorities than the EPO; in particular, the EPO does not guarantee that they are complete, up-to-date or fit for specific purposes.

    8.2. The EPO shall not be liable and accepts no representation or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness and reliability of information given in documents bearing the name of their author(s) or otherwise clearly attributable to a person or third party not directly affiliated to the EPO (e.g. recorded speeches, postings in Forums as defined in Section ‎9, or data relating to the post-grant phase obtained from national patent offices). The respective author or speaker bears sole responsibility for the content of such parts of the Information.

    8.3. Any software made available for download on the Website is supplied "as is" without further warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including, but not limited to, the quality, performance, merchantability or fitness for a particular use or purpose. Without prejudice to Section 8.1 above, the EPO shall not be liable for any damages, including but not limited to direct, indirect, special, incidental, punitive, exemplary or consequential damages arising out of the use or the inability to use such software, even if the EPO is advised of the possibility of such damages. Specifically, the EPO is not responsible for any loss of profits or revenue, loss of the use of the computer program, loss of data, the cost of recovering programs or data, the substitute program and any claims by third parties caused by the use of such software.

    8.4. The EPO shall not be liable and accepts no representation or responsibility for the functionality or contents of external websites, services or software products hyperlinked from the Website. The use of such websites, services or software products is at the sole risk of the user.

    8.5. These provisions are not intended to limit the EPO's  liability in breach of any national law applicable or to exclude its liability for matters which cannot be excluded under such law.

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  9. Forums

    9.1. Where the Website contains facilities for the online exchange of information or communication with the European Patent Office or other users, be it through bulletin boards, chat rooms, wiki sites, access to mailing lists or other message or document posting facilities (hereinafter collectively "Forums"), the user agrees to use the Forums only to send and receive messages and materials that relate to the Forum's subject and to respect generally accepted standards of politeness and correctness in communications. Forums are for non-commercial use only. In particular, users must not

    1. defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the rights (such as rights of privacy and publicity) of others;
    2. publish, post, distribute or disseminate any defamatory, injurious, obscene, indecent or unlawful material or information;
    3. use the Forum for postings relating to proceedings pending before the European Patent Office  including those relating to specific patent applications;
    4. upload or attach material or files that contain software or other material protected as intellectual property (or by rights of privacy and publicity), unless the user owns or controls the rights thereto or has received such consent as may be required by law;
    5. upload or attach virus-containing or corrupted files or any other  software or programs that might damage the operation of another's computer;
    6. delete any author attributions, legal notices or proprietary designations or labels in any file that is uploaded;
    7. forge the origin or source of software or other material contained in a file that is uploaded;
    8. advertise or offer for sale any goods or services, or conduct or forward surveys, contests or chain letters,
    9. copy, reproduce, republish, download, post, broadcast, transmit, make available to the public, create a derivative work or otherwise use content of a Forum in any way other than for their own personal, non-commercial use. Where the user knows, or may reasonably be expected to know, that the content or material cannot legally be distributed in such manner, he may not use or distribute it even for his personal, non-commercial use.

    9.2. By sending messages and material to the Forums, the user accepts full liability vis-à-vis the EPO for any claim made against the EPO in connection with such posting, including, but not limited to, claims for infringement of copyright or other intellectual property rights.

    9.3. Unless otherwise stated, the EPO does not screen, edit or approve postings on the Forums. It therefore does not endorse any Forum content, and disclaims all liability as regards such content. However, the EPO reserves the right, at any time and at its sole discretion,

    1. to remove content of a personal character or posted contrary to paragraph 1 above,
    2. to edit any posting or topic title,
    3. to merge, split, or move any thread or sub-thread.

    9.4. By uploading content to the Forum or submitting material for use therein, the user grants the EPO a transferable right to use, reproduce or modify such content or material. In exercising that right the EPO must respect the moral rights of the user, including the right to be identified as the author.

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  10. Web-based transactions

    10.1. The placing of an order for products or services via the website constitutes an offer to the EPO to conclude a contract for the provision of such products or services. The EPO may accept such offers by sending a confirmation e-mail or letter, by dispatching the product or by commencing with the provision of the service.

    Where applicable, the confirmation e-mail or letter will contain details of the amount to be paid and the method of payment for the products or services ordered. Where such a confirmation e-mail or letter is sent, and unless otherwise stated, the contract is not deemed to be concluded until the EPO receives the payment. An e-mail or letter which merely confirms receipt of the order and the details of said order does not constitute acceptance of the user's offer.

    10.2. Without prejudice to their statutory rights, users who qualify as consumers within the meaning of Section 13 of the German Civil Code (BGB) are entitled to cancel an order within 14 days, either in writing (e.g. by letter, fax or e-mail), without giving any reasons, or - if the product is supplied before expiry of the 14-day period - by returning the product. The period begins upon receipt of the present conditions in writing, but not before receipt of the product by the user (in the case of recurring delivery of similar products, not before receipt of the first partial delivery) or - in the case of the provision of services - not before the conclusion of the contract and also not before the fulfilment of the EPO's duty to supply information in accordance with Article 246, section 2 in conjunction with section 1, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code as well as section 312e, paragraph 1, first sentence of the German Civil Code in conjunction with Article 246, section 3 of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code. For the cancellation to be effective, the notice of cancellation or the product must be dispatched before the end of the cancellation period to the following address:

    European Patent Office
    Vienna sub-office
    Dir. 5.1.3 Product Distribution and Specialised Services
    Rennweg 12
    1030 Vienna
    Austria

    In the event of an effective cancellation, any products or services received by either party must be returned to the other party and any benefits that may have been accrued (e.g. interest) must be released. If the user is unable to return all or part of the products or services to the EPO or if they are returned in an impaired condition, he is obliged to provide the EPO with compensation for lost value. In the case of services, this can mean that the user is obliged to continue to pay for said services under the terms of the contract until such time as the cancellation takes effect. In the case of relinquished products, the user is not liable to pay compensation if the impairment of the product is exclusively due to it having been examined in such a way as it would be in a shop, for example. Moreover, the user can avoid the obligation to render compensation for impairment caused by putting the product into use in the manner in which it was intended by not using the product as if it was his personal property and by avoiding handling it in a manner which would reduce its value. The user is not liable for compensation for lost value if the damage occurs through putting the product into use in the manner in which it was intended. Products that can be sent by post are to be returned at the EPO's risk. The user must pay the cost of the return shipment if the product delivered corresponds to the product ordered and the price of the returned product does not exceed an amount of EUR 40. He must also pay the cost of the return shipment if the price of the product is more then EUR 40 and at the time of the cancellation he has not made the full payment or a contractually agreed part payment. Otherwise the return shipment is free of charge. Products that are unsuitable for parcel post will be collected from the user's address. Obligations to reimburse payments must be met within 30 days. For the user, this period begins on the date of dispatch of the notice of cancellation or the product. For the EPO it begins on the date of receipt of the notice of cancellation or the product.

    The right of cancellation expires before the end of the cancellation period if in accordance with the user's specific wish the contract is fulfilled by both parties before the user has made use of his right of cancellation.

    10.3. Paragraph 10.2 does not apply to individualised services (such as watch services, translations, legal status services, search services, etc.), patent information products or software where the seal on the carrier has been broken by the user.

    10.4. With respect to products delivered or services rendered by the EPO in accordance with a contract concluded via the website, the EPO is liable for damage caused by a breach of duty on the part of its employees, statutory representatives or auxiliary persons only to the extent that such breach of duty was either intentional or the result of gross negligence. The EPO also disclaims all liability for external services or data obtained from third parties (such as bibliographic data, legal status data, etc.), in particular, but not exclusively, in respect of their completeness, currency and fitness for specific purposes.

    10.5. The delivery of EPO patent information products and services is subject to the General Conditions for the delivery of EPO information products.

    10.6. With respect to enrolment for training courses or other events, online registration constitutes an offer to the EPO to conclude a contract to take part in the event. Paragraphs 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4 apply mutatis mutandis.

    10.7. Unless otherwise stated, prices include packaging and taxes. Delivery may be included in the price or charged for separately. Where delivery is charged for separately, this must be clearly indicated.

    10.8. Unless otherwise expressly agreed, all web-based transactions covered by Section ‎10 are governed by German law. The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods does not apply.

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  11. Specific terms and conditions of use for Espacenet


    11.1 Espacenet is an entry-level, internet-based patent document search service. It provides basic search and retrieval functions for a range of patent and patent-related documents. It is not a replacement for professional services or advice. A zero result from an Espacenet search, for example, should not be interpreted as conferring freedom of action. Commercially relevant or financial decisions should not be based on the results of Espacenet searches.

    11.2 Given existing hardware and bandwidth limits, the Espacenet service is not to be used for bulk downloads. Users are requested to respect the "Fair use charter for the EPO's online patent information products"; should they wish to download large amounts of data (for example facsimile page images) they should contact patentdata@epo.org.

    11.3 The European Patent Office makes every effort to prevent technical malfunctions and ensure that the Espacenet service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, from 05:00 to 05:30 CET, Monday to Saturday inclusive and Sunday from 05:00 to 05:45 CET, some parts of the service are closed down for regular maintenance and updates.

    11.4 The word "Espacenet" and its logo are EPO trade marks.

    11.5. Without prejudice to the European Patent Convention and the secondary law of the EPO, the operation, provision and use of Espacenet services, and any claims or disputes arising out of or in connection with the use of the system, are subject to German law.

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  12. Specific terms and conditions of use for the EPO Online Services portal


    12.1 The EPO Online Services portal provides access to personalised online services such as Register Alert, My Files and the Mailbox.

    12.2 The portal and the services to which it gives access are free of charge. Some of the services, for example Register Alert, can be accessed by authorised users via a self-defined username and password, while others, such as the Mailbox, require identification by means of an electronic signature in the form of a smart card issued or recognised by the European Patent Office. The following is a list of recognised electronic signatures:
    - European Patent Office > http://www.epoline.org
    - CERES > http://www.cert.fnmt.es/
    - VRK-FINSIGN > http://www.vaestorekisterikeskus.fi/
    - WIPO > http://www.wipo.int/pct-safe/en/certificates.htm

    12.3 If a service is not accessed by a registered user for a period of six months, the European Patent Office reserves the right to automatically deactivate the user authorisation for that service without prior notice. Dormant mailboxes may be automatically deactivated after three months of non-access unless stated otherwise in the specific conditions of use for individual services.

    12.4 The European Patent Office endeavours to ensure that the portal and its services can be accessed on working days from 08.00 to 18.00 hrs CET. However, it cannot guarantee that they will always be available at these times. If either the portal or any of its services are overloaded or malfunctioning, or if an overload or malfunction is imminent, this may restrict access to the portal or close it down altogether.

    12.5 Without prejudice to the European Patent Convention and the secondary law of the EPO, the operation, provision and use of the services available via the portal, and any claims or disputes arising out of or in connection with the use of the system, are subject to German law.

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  13. Specific terms and conditions for the patent translate service

    13.1 The patent translate service generates an automated translation of patent documents. It cannot be guaranteed that such translation output is intelligible, accurate, complete, reliable or fit for specific purposes. Critical decisions, such as commercially relevant or financial decisions, should not be based on machine-translation output.

    13.2 The EPO will not collect data on individual users of the patent translate service. Nor will it disclose data on end users to the technical provider of the patent translate service.

  14. Data protection

    14.1. When the Website is accessed, certain information about users, such as internet protocol (IP) addresses, navigation through the site, software used and time spent, may be stored by the EPO or on its behalf.  This information may be used for website traffic analysis only, and not to identify users. No attempt will be made to monitor systematically individual users of IP addresses, or the actions that they perform.

    14.2. Personal data may not be recorded or saved without the user's express consent.  By completing any data collection form on the Website, the user expressly agrees to the storage and processing of the data entered.  All data provided by the user (such as,  names, addresses, credit card details, account information, etc.) will be treated as confidential, stored and processed only for the purpose for which it was collected, and made available only to the unit responsible for dealing with it. In particular, personal data will not be passed on to third parties or published or made available for general access without the user's express agreement or unless necessary to comply with a request by or for the conclusion or fulfilment of a contract with that user, or unless the EPO is obliged to make such data available to public authorities.

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  15. Protocol on Privileges and Immunities

    These Terms and Conditions shall be interpreted in such a way as to preserve at all times the EPO's rights under the European Patent Convention and its Protocol on Privileges and Immunities, signed in Munich on 5 October 1973.

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