EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
Information from the EPO
Notice from the European Patent Office dated 25 January 2021 concerning the updating of the Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office
By decision of the President of the EPO dated 25 January 2021 and pursuant to Article 10(2) EPC, the Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office (EPC Guidelines) have been amended in line with the EPOʹs policy to provide an annual update. The 2021 edition of the EPC Guidelines has been drawn up in line with the new revision-cycle arrangements.1 These arrangements ensure greater user involvement in the form of a public online consultation and two annual meetings with the members of the SACEPO Working Party on Guidelines. The amended EPC Guidelines, which will enter into force on 1 March 2021, will be published as a complete March 2021 edition that will supersede the November 2019 edition.
The new EPC Guidelines will be published electronically and will be available in all three official languages on the EPO website at www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/guidelines.html, where they can be downloaded free of charge.
The EPC Guidelines are available in PDF format – consisting of a clean copy and a version showing all modifications – and in HTML format. Within each section of the HTML version, the actual amendments can be viewed by ticking the Show modifications box in the top right-hand corner. A full list of the sections which have been amended, together with corresponding hyperlinks, is also available.
As a courtesy service, an unedited English version will be made available on the EPO website at the beginning of February for advance information.
Amendments have been made to all eight parts of the EPC Guidelines. Some amendments have been made in the light of decisions of the Enlarged Board of Appeal and other boards of appeal while others are the result of recent information published in the Official Journal; some updates have been made because further clarification of the EPO's practice was required.
In particular, Part A now provides more detail on divisional applications and applications relating to biological material. In Part C, telephone consultations and interviews are merged into the single category of "consultations", which are in principle to take place by videoconference. Part E has, inter alia, been updated with a view to oral proceedings being held by videoconference. Also in Part E, more detailed information on electronic notification has been added. In Part F, following the Enlarged Board of Appeal's Opinion G 3/19, sections relating to inventions in the field of biotechnology were thoroughly revised. Also in Part F, aspects concerning the convergence of practice for the assessment of non-unity were introduced. In Part G, the sections relating to computer-implemented inventions as well as to inventions in the field of biotechnology have been revisited and further clarified. A number of clarifications and updates regarding the EPO's practice have been added to Parts B, D and H. Without any claim to completeness, the language of the EPC Guidelines has been edited to be gender-neutral.
After the entry into force of the 2021 edition of the EPC Guidelines, the 2022 revision cycle will start with an online user consultation from 1 March to 12 April 2021. Information about this will be published soon on the EPO website.