The European search can also cover internet sources, including online technical journals, online databases or other websites (see OJ EPO 2009, 456). The extent of such internet searches depends on the individual case, but in some technical fields a systematic internet search will regularly be necessary. Especially in fields related to information or software technology, searches bypassing the internet will often not yield the most relevant prior art. Examiners may therefore use the internet as necessary also when searching unpublished applications but must take great care not to disclose confidential information through the inadvertent use of search terms. It is left to the individual examiner to select keywords that enable such a search to be performed while respecting the duty of confidentiality regarding unpublished applications. This would entail, for example, choosing only a few keywords which do not disclose the invention, rather than entering long portions of the text of a claim as a search term.
Concerning the dating of internet citations, see G-IV, 7.5.