Common application format

  1. Background Information

    At the November 2005 Trilateral Pre-Conference, the trilateral offices established a technical working group on the formal aspects of patent applications in response to a request from the Industry Trilateral that the trilateral offices begin standardising the formal aspects of patent applications.

    After intensive discussions at six working group meetings from 2006 to 2007, the trilateral offices agreed on a common format for patent applications in response to the request from users.

    The common application format developed by this trilateral working group with the participation of the World Intellectual Property Organization supports the trilateral goal of a globally standardised application format. This would allow applicants to prepare a single application that could be accepted by each participating office without the need for further changes to ensure compliance with formal requirements.

    The project adheres to the principle enshrined in the Patent Law Treaty whereby PCT standards are used whenever applicable. It takes into consideration the preparations for the implementation of the PLT and the further adoption of XML processing.

    CAF is currently also being promoted at IP5 level, a project involving the main patent offices (EPO, USPTO, SIPO, KIPO, JPO) with a view to reducing duplication of work.

  2. What is CAF?

    Essentially CAF provides a common structure for patent applications. An application which complies with the common application format will be accepted without amendment as a national/regional application by any of the trilateral offices as far as the agreed formal requirements are concerned. Each trilateral office may lay down requirements which are more favourable for applicants than those of the common application format.

    Note: The following paragraphs contain some simple hints for drafting applications so as to comply with the common application format. Applicants should however refer to the EPC or the Guidelines for Examination for details on substantive matters.

    The impact of the CAF for the applicant can be summarised as follows:

    • Section titles and order in the description
      The order and wording in the description must be as follows:
      • Description
        • Title of Invention or Title
        • Technical Field or Field
        • Background Art or Background
        • Summary of Invention or Summary
          • Technical Problem
          • Solution to Problem
          • Advantageous Effects of Invention
        • (Brief Description of Drawings)
        • Description of Embodiments
          • Examples
        • Industrial Applicability
        • Reference Signs List
        • Reference to Deposited Biological Material
        • (Sequence Listing Free Text)
        • Citation List
          • Patent Literature
          • Non Patent Literature
    • Section Titles for the rest of the Application
      • Claims
      • Abstract
      • (Drawings)
      • (Sequence Listing)
      1. Section titles shown above in bold and without parentheses must be included in the application.
      2. Section titles shown above in bold and with parentheses must be included in the application when the latter contains a corresponding reference.
      3. The placing of the citation list is unimportant as long as it is in the description. When European patent applications are filed in a non-official language under EPC 2000, a citation list forming part of the description must be translated into one of the official languages of the EPO.
      4. The brief description of each figure in "Brief Description of Drawings" must be preceded by a heading that identifies the figure (e.g. Fig. 1, Fig. 2).
    • Identification of elements
      • Each image must be preceded by a sign showing that it is a mathematical ("Math.") or chemical ("Chem.") formula, a space, and an Arabic numeral designating the mathematical or chemical formula (e.g. Math. 1, Math. 2, Chem. 1, Chem. 2).
      • Each table must be preceded by a sign showing that it is a table ("Table"), a space, and an Arabic numeral designating the table (e.g. Table 1, Table 2).
      • Each claim must be preceded by a sign showing that it is a claim ("Claim"), a space, and an Arabic numeral designating the claim (e.g. Claim 1, Claim 2).
  3. Drafting tools 

    The EPO provides its applicants free of charge with an add-on to Microsoft Word called PatXML, which configures Word with the page settings meeting the requirements of the EPC, provides the CAF document structure, generates an XML stream according to WIPO standard ST.36 and can generate a PDF version of the application.

    The big advantage of the XML stream generated by PatXML is that can be filed electronically in a large number of patent offices and where appropriate without any modification.

  4. Further reading

    More information on CAF and its use in other patent offices can be found on the trilateral site.