The European Patent Office (EPO) is working towards processing European patent applications and oppositions completely electronically, and to further improving the quality of its publications. In that context, it is introducing a system to produce the Druckexemplar (text intended for publication) electronically. This means it must be able to capture submitted documents electronically in such a way that it can deal with them using text-processing software - which however is not possible for handwritten amendments.
Rule 49 EPC already requires the description, claims and abstract to be typed or printed; it allows exceptions only for graphic symbols and characters and chemical or mathematical formulae, if necessary.
With effect from 1 January 2014, the EPO will discontinue its existing practice1 and, in strict compliance with Rule 50(1) EPC in conjunction with Rule 49(8) EPC, will no longer accept handwritten amendments in documents replacing parts of the European patent application. Rule 49(8), second sentence, EPC is not affected. The same applies mutatis mutandis to opposition proceedings (Rule 86 EPC).
To amend such documents in oral proceedings, the EPO recommends bringing a laptop or similar device on which the amendments can be prepared. It will also provide suitable technical or other facilities. The rooms made available for patent agents generally contain computers which can read CD-ROMs, USB sticks, etc., together with printers which normally allow documents to be printed direct from USB sticks.
The EPO recommends that parties bring electronic copies of documents likely to be amended, on a medium free of computer viruses or malware. It will also provide applicants and patent proprietors with electronic copies of their Druckexemplar or patent specification (EP-B).