Notice from the European Patent Office dated 5 December 2017 concerning the programme on search strategies
1. On 1 November 2015, the European Patent Office (EPO) launched a pilot programme aimed at testing whether and to what extent a new information sheet ("Information on Search Strategy") containing additional information regarding the search performed by the examiner could be useful to applicants and third parties.[ 1 ]
2. The pilot programme, initially scheduled to last for one year, was extended for an additional 12 months and will therefore end on 31 December 2017.[ 2 ]
3. In view of the high levels of satisfaction expressed by users during the pilot phase, the EPO has decided to fully implement the programme as a permanent service as from 1 January 2018. This service is considered to increase transparency by providing details of the key aspects of the search strategy employed, and thus to enable users and third parties to make more in-depth assessments of the search.
4. Therefore, as from 1 January 2018, the information sheet:
(a) will be annexed to all search reports drawn up by the EPO under both the PCT and EP procedures, including partial search reports and the search results provided under the procedure pursuant to Rule 164(2) EPC. If the application lacks unity of invention, the data contained in this sheet will only concern the invention(s) for which the search fee(s) has (have) been paid.
(b) will contain certain details about the databases in which examiners conducted the prior-art search, the classification symbols defining the extent of the search (e.g. IPC and/or CPC classes), and the keywords or any other element relating to the invention to be searched used by examiners to retrieve the relevant prior art.
(c) will be systematically annexed to all search reports drawn up by the EPO under both the PCT and EP procedures. As a result, no express request from the applicant will be needed.
(d) upon publication of a search report drawn up under the EP procedure, will be made available to the public via file inspection in the European Patent Register. Upon publication of a search report drawn up under the PCT procedure, the information sheet will be made available to the public via file inspection on WIPO's PATENTSCOPE and in the European Patent Register.
5. The present notice enters into force on 1 January 2018, replacing the notice on the pilot programme on search strategies (OJ EPO 2015, A86) and the notice on the extension of the pilot programme on search strategies (OJ EPO 2017, A3).