As the EPO's main advisory body, SACEPO is consulted on all major issues relating to the development of the European patent system. These can range from broad European and international reforms - such as introduction of the Unitary Patent, reform of the EPO boards of appeal, revision of the EPC, PCT reform and substantive patent law harmonisation - to more practical questions concerning the European patent grant procedure, such as changes to the EPC Implementing Regulations, EPO fee policy, revision of the Guidelines for Examination, and other important projects such as Early Certainty from Search and Examination.

Regular consultation of SACEPO ensures that proposed changes to European patent law and practice are seen from the perspective of the users and debated in a thorough and balanced way prior to implementation. Its functions are of purely advisory nature.

The main SACEPO committee - which held its 50th meeting in June 2018 - is composed of 30 high-level practitioners with extensive experience in the field, appointed by the EPO President either ad personam or on a proposal from epi or BusinessEurope. In addition, over the years, SACEPO has set up five smaller working parties to address particular topics:

  • the Working Party on Quality (SACEPO/WPQ) concerns itself with quality matters in the patent grant process, with a particular focus on the EPO's ISO 9001-certified Quality Management System. It meets once a year, with representatives from major user associations providing feedback on new initiatives and the EPO's annual quality report.
  • the Working Party on e-Patent-Process (SACEPO/ePP) focuses on operational matters relating to the EPO's e-business projects, whether concerning electronic aspects of the grant procedure or customer services in the patent-information field. User representatives on this working party include applicants, patent attorneys and experts from formalities bodies and billing centres.
  • the Working Party on Rules (SACEPO/WPR) and the Working Party on Guidelines (SACEPO/WPG) are composed of members nominated by epi and BusinessEurope and are consulted, respectively, on proposed changes to the EPC Implementing Regulations and on the annual revision of the Guidelines for Examination.
  • the Working Party on Patent Documentation and Information (SACEPO/PDI) is composed of experts from patent documentation centres and libraries, experts from industry, and patent attorneys. It meets once a year at the EPO's Vienna sub-office, providing members with updates on the EPO's products, services and future projects in the field of patent information.

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