3.4. Return of filed evidence

As a rule, documents filed as evidence during opposition proceedings and submissions referring to them remain in the file until the end of the proceedings and for at least five more years (see R. 147 EPC; former R. 95a EPC 1973). Documents filed as evidence may only exceptionally and on a substantiated request remain unconsidered and be returned. Such an exception exists if the interests of the filing party in having them returned unconsidered clearly prevail over the interests of any other party and the public interest. This might be the case if the documents have been filed in breach of a confidentiality agreement and if they do not belong to the state of the art but are third party statements filed as part of the response to the opposition, and if the other parties involved agree with the request. The same applies to submissions referring to such documents (T 760/89, OJ 1994, 797).

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