FAQ on Open Patent Services (OPS)

Questions

General information

OPS v3.1

Coverage

Search formats

Search queries - tips and tricks

Answers

General information


What is Open Patent Services (OPS)?

Open Patent Services - or OPS as it is also known - is a web service which provides access to the EPO's raw data via a standardised XML interface. The data is extracted from the EPO's bibliographic (EPODOC), the Worldwide Legal Status Database, full-text (EPOQUE) and image (BNS) databases and is therefore from the same sources as the data in Espacenet and the European Patent Register. However, while Espacenet and the European Patent Register only require an internet browser, OPS requires programming work to access the service.


Where can I find technical documentation for OPS?

You can find a technical description, schemas and further supporting documentation on our website.

To use OPS, you need to be familiar with web services in general. We also strongly recommend that you study Open Patent Services v.2 - Web Service Definition and Description - so that you fully understand the background and environment of the system.


Does the EPO provide a client to access OPS?

No, users need to have or programme a client that is able to communicate with the XML interface using the REST architecture.


Are there any restrictions on using OPS?

The EPO operates a fair use policy to ensure reasonable access for all users. OPS is not designed to deliver large amounts of data. If you require entire collections or databases, you should instead consider buying the EPO's raw data products. For more information on these products, contact us at patentdata@epo.org

For more information see our fair use charter.

Please note the following:

As a free service, OPS has its limitations. It can be quite busy and slow during working hours (between 07.00 and 19.00 hrs CET).

As explained in the fair use charter, there is a threshold of one request per second for family‑related actions, but the less intensive bibliographic service is faster. As a rule, all OPS services tolerate ten searches per minute per IP address, but this threshold may be higher or lower depending on operational circumstances.

Automatic (robot) access is welcomed on OPS, but within certain limits so it does not overwhelm the system. The maximum volume of traffic allowed for bulk download by robots is 1 Mbit/second. Again, this limit may vary depending on operational circumstances.

If you require complete databases or very large sets of records, please contact us at patentdata@epo.org. We can provide them at low cost by other means.


Does OPS permit bulk data retrieval?

At the moment, bulk retrieval works with document inquiry and bibliographic retrieval via the Published Data services offered in RESTful OPS.

Retrieval via REST is limited to 100 documents.

OPS is not suitable for downloading larger quantities of data. In such cases, you should consider our raw data products.

Raw data products and test data


How many results are displayed in OPS?

The default display in OPS only shows the first 25 results, but if you want to see more, you can change the range parameter at the end of the URL ("&Range=xx-xx"). You can download batches of up to 100 results at a time:

"&Range=1-100"

However, OPS can only display a total of 2 000 results. If there are more than 2 000 hits in your results list, you will have to limit your search query to reduce the number of results.


OPS v3.1


Why is registration needed in OPS 3.1?

Registration and the 2.5 GB/week usage limitation for non-paying users will relieve the servers. OPS receives traffic from many hundreds of concurrent user hosts per day. The service is connected to several EPO backend databases used by the EPO examining divisions. It is designed to be responsive to our external users without overwhelming the servers, thus enabling the EPO to continue its core operations unimpeded by OPS.


There are three user roles available in the new OPS 3.1. What is the difference between them?

Users are categorised in the following way:

  • Anonymous users receive a small allocation of data for very low-volume usage.
  • Registered users are granted free access to higher volumes of data up to a certain ceiling defined in the OPS terms and conditions.
  • Registered users willing to pay for more substantial volumes of data can record billing contact details and apply for access to higher volumes of data.

The published fair use policy and associated terms and conditions define what we consider to be appropriate usage by anonymous and registered users.

The policy is enforced in the following ways:

  • Registered users must authenticate when accessing OPS using HTTPS and OAuth             (described below).
  • Dynamic fair use monitoring inside the OPS system gives users feedback on usage in a way that enables them to control the behaviour of their client application. This feedback takes the form of HTTP headers, with each response generated by OPS specifically for the user.
  • If the user behaviour exceeds the terms of the fair use policy, the dynamic fair use controls ensure that access is reduced accordingly.
  • Users that are found to be especially disruptive can be completely shut out of the application until agreement is reached with OPS support to release them.

What information do you need if you want to register?

You should have the following information at hand:

  • Username
    Must be unique to the OPS system.
  • An email address
    This address will be used for all registration and activation correspondence.
    Must be unique to the OPS system.
  • A postal address
    We require detailed information concerning your location and organisation.
  • Contact details
    We require telephone numbers and email addresses where we can contact a technical representative.
  • Billing details
    Users requiring access to large volumes of data can select the option to pay (please refer to the terms and conditions).
    Information required includes VAT and billing address details.
    Optionally a purchase order number can be specified.
    Separate telephone and email contact details are required for invoicing and settlement issues.

The registration details entered are unique to OPS developer registrations. The username and password recorded here should not be confused with usernames and passwords for the EPO Forum, the European Patent Register or indeed for any other EPO secure registration and connection.


Can I check my usage statistics?

For users who have registered for OPS and particularly those who consume paid-for data, OPS has an API to assist in tracking the usage of data. The response produced by this API is based on the same database as is used for invoicing purposes by the EPO. Consequently, it is intended that the data consumer can control and predict future invoices produced by the EPO. The usage database is updated at ten minutes past the hour.


Coverage


What kind of data can I retrieve using OPS?

You can access:
  • bibliographic,
  • family
  • legal status data
  • character-coded full text (EP, WO, AT, CH, ES, GB and CA)
  • facsimile images for patent documents worldwide.
  • EPO's register
  • CPC classification

Does OPS include utility models?

Yes, for certain countries. For coverage information see: "Contents and coverage of the DOCDB bibliographic file".

  • "Contents and coverage of the DOCDB bibliographic file"

Can I retrieve the procedural status of a specific patent document via OPS?

Procedural aspects (language of procedure, intention to grant, designated states, etc.) are typical European patent register data and are available in OPS Register.


Does OPS contain all national patent applications published locally, even if they are not extended to other countries?

The EPO aims to provide complete coverage of patent publications from as many countries as possible. For details of the situation relating to each country, see "Useful tables and statistics, coverage and codes".

  • Useful tables and statistics, coverage and codes

What is the coverage for full-text descriptions and claims in OPS?

OPS currently supplies descriptions and claims for documents published by the following authorities: EP, WO (only if published in English, French or German), AT, CH, GB, ES and CA.

Search formats


What is the difference between the EPODOC and DOCDB formats?

In the EPODOC format, only the country code (CC) and document number are mandatory and must be given in one string. Leading zeros can generally be ignored, e.g.:

<doc-number>EP453930</doc-number>.

In the DOCDB format, the country code (CC), document number and kind code (KC) are all mandatory. If you don't know the kind code, you can replace it in full or in part with the wildcard '%':

<country>EP</country>
<doc-number>453930</doc-number>
<kind>A2</kind>

The following expressions for the kind code are also acceptable:

<kind>A%</kind>
<kind>%%</kind>

Note: The use of wildcards may lead to an "ambiguous seed" response. The wildcards can be used in INPADOC-related services, bibliographic retrieval and document inquiry only.


Search queries - tips and tricks


How do I find citations and cited documents via RESTful OPS?

To find citations, you have to do a search via the Published Data service, using a CQL request containing "ct" as in the following example:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/search//?q=ct%3DEP0351918

To find cited documents, submit a request via the Published Data service, using the constituent "biblio" as in following example:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/EP0351918.a1/biblio


What do I have to do to retrieve all bibliographic entries for the equivalents in a simple family?

Using the Published Data service, submit a request with the constituent "equivalents". The following example shows what you have to do to retrieve all bibliographies for every equivalent of the family of publication EP1000000:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/epodoc/EP1000000/equivalents

Since the family size is 4, all bibliographies can be obtained in one call using the batch mode:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/EP1000000.A1,NL1010536,US6093011,AT232441.T/biblio


What do I have to do to retrieve the family of a US-published patent application? It does not work with number US20060123456, for example.

You need to know the document identifier. This you get in a two-step approach:

1. Enter a query for the image ID via the Published Data service, using the constituent "images":

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/ep1000000.A1/images

<ops:document-inquiry>
<ops:publication-reference>
<document-id document-id-type="docdb">
<country>EP</country>
<doc-number>1000000</doc-number>
<kind>A1</kind>

</document-id>
</ops:publication-reference>
<ops:inquiry-result>
<publication-reference>
<document-id document-id-type="docdb">
<country>EP</country>
<doc-number>1000000</doc-number>
<kind>A1</kind>

</document-id>
</publication-reference>
<ops:document-instance system="ops.epo.org" link="published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/thumbnail" number-of-pages="8" desc="Drawing">
<ops:document-format-options>
<ops:document-format>application/pdf</ops:document-format>
<ops:document-format>application/tiff</ops:document-format>
</ops:document-format-options>
<ops:document-section name="DRAWINGS" start-page="1"/>

</ops:document-instance>
<ops:document-instance system="ops.epo.org" link="published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage" number-of-pages="12" desc="FullDocument">
<ops:document-format-options>
<ops:document-format>application/pdf</ops:document-format>
<ops:document-format>application/tiff</ops:document-format>

2. Insert the image ID found (published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage) into the URL of your initial request (in bold) and add the appropriate format and page number at the end (Range=x):

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/ep1000000.A1/images?.tiff?Range=1

 


What do I have to do to retrieve a single PDF file for a given publication?

Images are not stored in convenient PDF files which OPS can access and deliver without further processing. OPS could create the illusion of this by converting the images into a single PDF file for you, but this would burden the server to the detriment of other users.

The steps required to fetch the data using the new RESTful OPS are as follows:

Step 1 - Request document availability information:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/EP.1000000.A1/images

Here you can see that the full document has 12 pages. You can also see that the abstract and bibliography begin on page 1, the description on page 2, the claims on page 3, the drawings on page 5 and the search report on page 11.

The relevant identifier is also given:

published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage

It is also shown that the pages are available in either tiff or PDF format.

Step 2 - Iterate over the pages:

You can iterate over the 12 pages by entering the following requests:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=1
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=2
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=3
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=4
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=5
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=6
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=7
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=8
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=9
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=10
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=11
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.tiff?Range=12

Alternatively, you can request each page as a PDF by using:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/images/EP/1000000/A1/fullimage.pdf?Range=1

Step 3 - Assemble the pages:

Several open source tools are available to help you easily assemble the pages as a single PDF file:

iText
PDFbox


What are the differences between the Espacenet SmartSearch and OPS bibliographic search requests?

In OPS you must use Boolean operators, in Espacenet it is optional. Both services use the Common Query Language (CQL). OPS is also faster if you do not request the bibliographic data, as the response contains publication references only.

Open Patent Services - Web Service Definition and Description (OPS Manual)


Sometimes, when using a reference in EPODOC format, I can find a publication in Espacenet, but not in OPS. Why is that?

The difference in behaviour is due to the way the two systems handle the number formats. Espacenet is much more flexible in handling numbers in different formats, while OPS requires you to (a) specify the format you are using (DOCDB or EPODOC) and (b) use the format as specified. Typically, issues will appear when working with publications where the EPODOC format requires that kind codes (or parts thereof) be attached to the publication number.

For some publication authorities, the EPODOC format requires that (part of) the kind code be attached to the number as follows:

  • for Japanese publications (JP) an entire kind code (a letter and possibly a digit) must be attached to the number, except when the kind code is A;
  • for publications with a country code on the following list: AT, AU, BA, BG, CN, DK, FI, IS, KR, NL, NO, PL, SK, UY, TW, YU, a kind code letter must be attached to the number, except when the kind code is A;
  • for publications from all other authorities, a kind code letter must be attached to the number, except when the kind code is either A, B or C.

The following example shows the difference between EPODOC and DOCDB number formats for a Japanese publication reference with B1 kind code:

In Epodoc:
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/epodoc/JP2995292B1/biblio

In DOCDB:
http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/JP2995292.B1/biblio


I have a US publication number US6808849 for a granted patent. What do I have to do to find the related published application number US2003064291?

One obvious way is to make a simple bibliographic retrieval for patent US6808849 while setting the constituent on "full cycle":

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/epodoc/US6808849/full-cycle

You will get the bibliographic data for all the publication steps relating to this invention, including the number of the published application US2003064291.

An alternative is to make an INPADOC family request. The response will contain basic information (publication, application and priority numbers ) for all the family members, including the various publication steps for that invention:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/family/publication/epodoc/US6808849/biblio


When I use the bibliographic search request, why does a "published before" type of CQL query deliver documents that do not have any publication date at all?

Currently, if the publication date is unknown, the system stores a value "0000-00-00", as a date is mandatory. Thus a CQL query should be extended with an additional condition (pd > 00000000) in order to exclude documents without a publication date.


When using the bibliographic search request, I cannot find publications with the keyword "x-ray" in the title. Why is that?

Currently, due to technical reasons, some queries with words that have special characters return no result. The workaround is to treat such a word like two words and use the proximity operator. Instead of (ti=x-ray) query, use (ti=x prox/distance=0/ordered=true ti=ray), which looks for titles with "x" immediately followed by "ray".

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/search/biblio/?q=ti%3Dx%20prox%2Fdistance%3D0%2Fordered%3Dtrue%20ti%3Dray


I am trying to retrieve the full text of an EP B document, but I can only find the full text for the A document. Why is that?

Full-text coverage varies from country to country, but in the case of EP documents, in Espacenet as well as in OPS, you can only get the full text for the first publication step available, which is generally the A1 or A2 publication. You will not be able to get the full text (description or claims) for a B publication (granted patent).

Nevertheless, you can download full EP B documents via the European publication server. The publication server contains EP A as well as B documents. You can use web services to retrieve data from the European publication server (see "Help" file on the publication server)

European publication server


Why can't I access the full text of PCTs?

The problem here is that the data is not available in the EP full-text database (because it is in TXTWOx format). Unlike Espacenet, OPS does not simplify the next step needed.

To find out where the relevant full text can be found, you have to follow the business rules for PCTs:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/EP1855551.B1/fulltext (conclusion: no information, so check family or equivalents)

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/EP1855551.B1/equivalents

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/family/publication/docdb/EP1855551.B1 (conclusion: long list - try the WO number with is-representative=yes)

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/WO2006094475/fulltext (conclusion: yes, there is a full text)

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/WO2006094475/description

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/docdb/WO2006094475/claims


When using the Published Data service, why do I get the entire publication cycle even if I don't use the constituent "full cycle"?

If the EPODOC format is used without a kind code, the system will search for all publications matching the publication requested.

Here is an example of request made in EPODOC format:

http://ops.epo.org/rest-services/published-data/publication/epodoc/ep1000000/biblio

This will happen for those authorities where the same number identifies multiple publication steps (e.g. EP, WO, FR). In these cases the system will provide all publications that match that specific number. Effectively, the entire publication cycle will be provided. To avoid this, you can either provide a kind code value or use the DOCDB format.

Open Patent Services - Web Service Definition and Description (OPS Manual)


I keep getting an error message from OPS. What does it mean?

There are several situations when the OPS system responds with an error message. Often the reason is web service unavailability, lack of server resources to process the request, incorrect request format or ambiguity.

A list of the most frequent error messages can be found in the Open Patent Services v.2 documentation.

Open Patent Services v.2 - Web Service Definition and Description


Why can't I find full texts for certain publications in OPS? For example, on Espacenet I get the full text for document EP0714461 but a description retrieval in OPS leads to the message "The requested data could not be found".

Euro-PCT applications (e.g. EP0714461 A1) are not republished by the EPO because they have already been published in an official EPO language (English, French or German) by WIPO. Espacenet retrieves the full text from the corresponding PCT publication, OPS does not.

Thus you can only retrieve bibliographic data for publication EP0714461A1. The full-text document is published only as WO 9534702 A1. The granted EP patent, however, will be published by the EPO, in this case as document EP0714461 B1.

 


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