FAQ: procurement

Doing business with EPO

What are the qualifications needed to become an EPO supplier?

Suppliers are assessed in terms of their technical capability and financial capacity and stability, as well as their organisational capacity and consistency.

For more information, see "Doing business with EPO" on our website.

Can SMEs enter into business relationships with the EPO?

Yes. Procurement decisions are not based on the size of the company, but on price, operating costs, technical merits, environmental aspects, delivery/completion dates, etc. SMEs are encouraged to participate in our procurement processes.

What are the rules governing disputes in the EPO’s procurement procedures?

Under Article 15 of the General Conditions of Tender, the EPO’s procurement procedures are governed solely by its own procurement rules. By submitting a bid in response to an invitation to tender, bidders agree that any dispute arising out of or in connection with this invitation to tender will be exclusively and finally settled by an arbitration tribunal which is set up and conducts its proceedings in accordance with Article 15 of the General Conditions of Tender and Annex 2 to the General Conditions of Tender, "Rules on Arbitration".

Tenders and competitive procedures

Where can I find the EPO’s invitations to tender and competitive procedures?

You can find them on the procurement section of our website or via Tenders electronic daily (Ted) - go to Buyer, and then to "European Patent Organisation").

Where can I find information about upcoming EPO procurements?

You can find information about upcoming EPO procurements by clicking the "Procurement plan(forecast)" tab next to the list of current tenders on our website. We recommend keeping an eye on this for future tenders.

What does the tender notice contain?

Tender notices normally contain the following:

  • Specification sheet (price offer form)
  • Questionnaires (general, selection and award questionnaires)
  • General conditions of tender
  • General conditions of contract with annexes
  • Specific conditions of contract
  • Technical conditions (plus any annexes required)

Where can I find information on EPO tenders and agreements?

Go to the "General conditions" section of our website for information on:

  • General conditions of contract
  • General conditions of tender
  • General conditions of contract for small-scale services
  • General conditions of contract for small-scale procurements
  • Buyer’s profile

What is eTendering?

eTendering is our online tender platform where you can find full details of all our invitations to tender. On our procurement page you will see a list of all current invitations to tender and competitive procedures, along with our forecasted and archived tenders. We suggest keeping an eye on this page.

When clicking on one of the current tenders, you can review the notice details to see if it is a tender that you wish to participate in.

If you are interested in a particular tender, click the orange button "Participate in the tender" button to enter the eTendering tool.

For more details about registering and how to get started, qualified electronic signatures etc., go to the dedicated section on our website.

How can I register for eTendering?

The steps for registration (with and without invitation code) are explained here.

A qualified electronic signature is required for all tender procedures. Only electronic bids/offers may be submitted in all tender and competitive procurement procedures published under eTendering. More information about qualified electronic signatures can be found in the "About eTendering" section.

What are the different types of EPO competitive procedure?

A competitive procedure is a procurement exercise involving more than one bidder or tenderer, as a result of either publication or advertisement (open procedure) or a direct invitation from the EPO (competitive direct placement). The EPO then evaluates the resulting offers and makes a selection based on price or a combination of price and other factors.

The preferred procedure is an open tender. Progressively restrictive procedures such as restricted tenders with or without publication, competitive direct placements and direct placements require well-founded, documented reasons and must fulfil strict conditions. The competitive procedure with negotiation allows negotiation with bidders in certain complex procedures.

Type

Name

Value

Open

Open tender

 

(no threshold)

Restricted tender with publication

Competitive procedure with negotiation

Restricted

Competitive direct placement

EUR 15 000 - EUR 200 000

Restricted tender without publication

(no threshold)

What are the basic principles when awarding public contracts?

Competition

  • Open international tenders are preferable to restricted tenders or direct placement.
  • Tender specifications must maximise possible competition.
  • Only one bid per bidder allowed.
  • Bids and bidders' identity must be treated confidentially.

Equal treatment/non-discrimination

  • All bidders must be treated equally; discrimination not allowed; neutrality required.
  • Avoid/make up for (lack of) information likely to distort competition.
  • Only complete bids qualify for equal treatment.
  • Only officials neutral towards the bidders can take part in the procedure.

Transparency

  • Tender notice/procurement documents must specify suitability and award criteria.
  • Decisions taken in tender procedure must be documented.

What are the key parameters of the EPO’s procurement procedures?

  • Fairness, integrity and transparency through competition.
  • Competition to be conducted in a fair and transparent manner.
  • Economy, effectiveness, best value for money.
  • Adherence to ethical business practices in all procurement procedures and procurement-related activities.
  • Inclusion of environmental aspects in list of criteria for the assessment of bids.

Bidding obligations

What are the EPO’s and bidders’ obligations during competitive procedures?

The EPO undertakes to:

  • Define the procurement process/procedure to be followed.
  • Set aside a submission that does not match the mandatory administrative prima facie conditions for a submission to be accepted as a bid.
  • Disallow vendors who do not satisfy the selection criteria.
  • Disallow a bid that does not satisfy the mandatory technical requirements of the procurement.
  • Resolve disputes via arbitration rather than through the courts (where earlier written and face-to-face resolution attempts have failed).
  • Not award to bidders who do not represent the market price.

The bidder undertakes to:

  • Follow the rules of the procedure as provided by the EPO.
  • Honour their prices (and relevant technical undertakings) for the period requested by the EPO (e.g. "period bound by bid" in the published notice).

What are the time limits for placing a bid for a (competitive) procedure?

The time limits for EPO procurements vary depending on the procedure and are set out in the published notice of the tender.

Selection and award processes

What are the selection and award phases?

Bidders are preselected based on their responses to the questionnaires provided in the tender documents. They must answer all the specified questions if they wish to be considered for further evaluation.

General information questionnaire

This questionnaire is based on Annex 1 to the General Conditions of Tender. Questions 1.1 to 1.14 must be answered by all bidders, and questions 1.15 and 1.16 must be answered by bidders submitting technical or contractual variants. Bidders' know-how, capacity and reliability to fulfil the contract will be assessed on the basis of the information and evidence submitted in reply to this questionnaire.

Selection criteria questionnaire

This questionnaire is used to establish whether individual bidders possess the reliability, financial and economic standing (suitability), and technical and professional competence (capability) to fulfil the contract. No points are given for this questionnaire.

Overall assessment

The output of the assessment of each selection criterion is a binary determination as to whether the bidder in question satisfies that criterion or not. A decision is taken with respect to each individual bidder separately.

Award

The award criteria include in particular price, operating costs, technical merits, environmental aspects, delivery/completion dates, technical and financial guarantees offered and compliance with warranty requirements. The technical evaluation (answers to award questions) is based on the bidder’s response to the questionnaires provided in the tender documents.

The following table summarises the different approaches:

Name

Selection method

Open tender

Selection criteria defined in advance in published notice. May also be included in letter of invitation.

Restricted tender with publication

As for open tender. Might include EPO’s possibility of EPO to use selection criteria to restrict to a number of suppliers/bidders.

Restricted tender without publication

Used where publication of a notice calling for a request to participate would harm the interests of the EPO. Requires at least five qualified potential bidders.

Competitive procedure with negotiation

Selection criteria are fully described in the published notice ("Call for competition").

Competitive direct placement

Where justified for reasons of efficiency/economy, competitive procedure with at least three qualified potential bidders.

Direct placement (failed tender)

As for competitive direct placements, but selection limited to those vendors fulfilling the selection criteria. Procedure not limited to bidders who participated in previous failed exercise.

What are the scoring selection criteria?

Bidders must demonstrate the necessary reliability, financial and economic standing (suitability), and technical and professional competence (capability) to fulfil the contract in terms of the selection criteria. Bidders' know-how, capacity and reliability to fulfil the contract will also be assessed on the basis of the information and evidence submitted in response to questionnaires.

Only bids from bidders who fulfil these selection criteria will be shortlisted for assessment.

The shortlisted bids are evaluated on the basis of the award criteria (bidders’ responses to the award criteria questionnaire) and the contract awarded to the most economically advantageous bid. The award criteria include in particular price, operating costs, technical merits, environmental aspects, delivery/completion dates, technical and financial guarantees offered and compliance with warranty requirements.

What is the procedure for the opening of bids?

Article 8 of the General Conditions of Tender

8. Opening of bids - invalid bids

8.1 Bid opening procedures will not be public. Bidders may not attend. Bids will be opened only if they arrive before the final date and time for receipt of bids and in the form specified in Article 7.

8.2 Bids received late or not in the prescribed form will be opened only where the reasons for this are beyond the Bidder's control, proof of which is required in writing.

8.3 As soon as the bids have been opened, all their essential elements, including any annexes, will be recorded and either given an identifying mark or electronically stored in such a way as to ensure the integrity of the data. The record is confidential. It may not be shown either to Bidders or to the public.

How are bids evaluated?

Bids are evaluated by comparing them in a transparent and traceable way.

Technical assessments are executed separately from financial evaluations. The overall assessment score is calculated in the final ranking.

More details can be found in Article 11 of the General Conditions of Tender.

On what basis can bidders be excluded?

Article 2 of the General Conditions of Tender

2.1 Any Bidder who

(a) is undergoing insolvency, bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings, has entered into a composition agreement with creditors, has ceased trading or is in any similar situation under the laws of the country in which he is domiciled;

(b) is the subject of a petition in bankruptcy or an application for composition (or has himself filed such a petition or application) or any similar proceedings under the laws of the country in which he is domiciled;

(c) has been convicted of an offence that puts his professional reliability in question;

(d) has been found by the EPO to have been guilty of grave professional misconduct;

(e) has failed to fulfil his obligations with regard to payment of taxes and levies under the laws of the country in which he is domiciled;

(f) during the last three years has persistently failed to perform his obligations or has failed to perform one or more core obligations under one or more contracts concluded with the EPO, which led to damages or other comparable sanction or to early termination;
may be excluded from the tender procedure.

What is the procedure for the award of contract?

Contract award takes place at the end of the procurement exercise (assuming a capable vendor has been found who has obtained the highest score in the combined scores of the technical and financial evaluation).

Article 12 of the General Conditions of Tender

12. Award of contract

12.1 The EPO is free to choose the bid it considers the most economically advantageous having regard to the criteria laid down in the published notice or another part of the Procurement Documents. If the tender is explicitly defined in the letter of invitation to tender as one pursuant to which a contract is to be awarded on the basis of price alone, the contract will be awarded to the Bidder who has bid the lowest price, on condition that the EPO is satisfied as to the Bidder's compliance with the tender requirements (including the Technical Conditions) and that any non-compliance specified by the Bidder does not stand in the way of the award.

12.2 The contract may be divided among several Bidders, (parts of) the contract may be placed with more than one Bidder or a partial award may be made. Prices quoted in a bid may not be revised or re-submitted after the final date for receipt of bids has passed.

12.3 A contractual relationship will arise only on signature of the contract.

What are the EPO’s Data Processing Agreement regulations?

Where a contractor will be processing personal data on behalf of the EPO, they must sign Annex E in order to comply with Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data – "General Data Protection Regulation".

The terms "personal data" and "processing" are very broad. "Personal data" means "any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person", in other words any information relating to an individual (as opposed to a legal person, such as a company) that can identify such individual. It includes names, addresses and ID card numbers, as well as online identifiers such as IP and email addresses. "Processing" means doing just about anything with personal data, e.g. collecting, recording, organising, structuring, storing, adapting, altering, retrieving, consulting, using, disclosing, transmitting, erasing or destroying it or otherwise making it available to someone else.

EPO procurements/official languages

What types of goods and services does the EPO procure?

The EPO’s procurement demand is mainly composed of indirect materials & services, including IT products & services, energy, consultancy, recruitment & training, facility management, meeting & events and building maintenance, among others.

What is the legislation governing the EPO’s procurement procedure?

As an intergovernmental and self-financing organisation, the European Patent Organisation is not governed by national or EU legislation on public procurement. It has its own procurement rules which are laid down in its Financial Regulations and implementing provisions.

These rules provide that goods, works and services are acquired by competition whenever possible, and that awards are made either on a discretionary basis, taking account of a variety of factors, or on the basis of price alone.

What are the official languages of the EPO?

The EPO has three working languages: English, French and German. Tender documents on the EPO procurement home page may appear in any of these three languages. These official languages are also the languages used for contracts.

EPO’s VAT number

What is the EPO’s VAT number?

As the EPO is an intergovernmental organisation, it is not a taxable person, so it does not have a VAT number.

Invoicing and payment

How can I send invoices/credit notes to the EPO?

  • Invoices/credit notes must be sent to accounts-payable@epo.org
  • No other email addresses should be used, including in cc
  • Only one invoice/credit note per email
  • PDFs must have a minimum 300 dpi resolution
  • No handwriting allowed
  • Providing a link to the invoice/credit note is not permitted

What are purchase order numbers (PO), funds reservation numbers (FR) and single point of entry numbers (SPE) and where can I find them?

Under the EPO's purchasing procedures we can only pay supplier invoices/credit notes which contain a valid reference number issued by the EPO ordering department. The types of reference number and their format are shown below.

Purchase order number (PO): "45xxxxxxxx"

Purchase order (PO) number

"45xxxxxxxx"

Funds reservation (FR) number

"32xxxxxxxx-xx"

SPE number

"10xxxxxxxx-xx"

All PO numbers have 10 digits. All FR and SPE numbers have 12 digits. Please put a dash prior to the last two digits of the number, as indicated in the box above.

If you do not have a purchase order (PO), funds reservation (FR) or single point of entry (SPE) number, please contact the business unit which sent you the order for the goods/services or your finance contact person to obtain the missing number.

How can I send an invoice/credit note that is not in pdf format?

If you cannot send us an invoice/credit note as a pdf, please mail it to one of the following addresses:

Germany

The Netherlands

Austria

European Patent Office

Accounts Payable

Postfach 14 06 69

80456 München

Germany

European Patent Office

Accounts Payable

Postbus 5818

2280 HV Rijswijk

The Netherlands

European Patent Office

Accounts Payable

Postfach 90

1031 Wien

Austria

How does the EPO pay suppliers?

Article 8 of the General Conditions of Contract

8.3   The EPO makes payments within 30 (thirty) calendar days of full delivery and performance and receipt of a duly issued invoice which is in accordance with Article 8.1 and 8.2. Payment is considered to be made on time if the EPO's payment order reaches its bank within this period.

8.4   In cases of a contract of sale or a contract for works, the EPO may, if so agreed elsewhere (e.g. in the Specific Conditions), withhold payment of up to 5% of the remuneration including turnover tax (gross remuneration) as a defects liability bond pending expiry of the limitation period for claims relating to defects (Article 16.2). The Contractor may redeem this bond by providing a defects liability guarantee in accordance with Article 11.

Contact

How can I contact the EPO procurement team?

If you still have questions and cannot find the information on our website, or if you have any feedback for us, please get in touch via our contact form.

Channels

Are there other channels where I can get information about EPO procurement?

EPO procurement has a LinkedIn page. Click the link under "Contact" to follow us.

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