Autumn meeting of SACEPO Working Party on Rules

On 18 October user representatives gathered online for the autumn meeting of the SACEPO Working Party on Rules to provide their views on various ongoing developments and new proposals. The meeting saw exchanges between representatives from BusinessEurope, the epi, AIPPI, FEMIPI, FICPI and UNION-IP and members of the EPO management.

The EPO is currently preparing a range of legal changes to support the further digital transformation of its patent grant process. In this context users were updated on the changes to the EPC Implementing Regulations adopted by the EPO Administrative Council last Thursday (13 October). These changes concern the presentation requirements of documents (Rules 46, 49, 50, 57 and 82 EPC) and the transmission of documents cited in search reports (Rule 65 EPC). These changes will enter into force on 1 February 2023 and aim to provide the Office with more flexibility to adapt to any future digital development. New rules concerning notifications and calculations of time limits (Rules 126, 127 and 131 EPC) will come into force on 1 November 2023, resulting in the abolition of the so-called “10-day rule”. SACEPO members stressed the need for communication and education activities to publicise these changes. The Office provided information on the foreseen measures, including publication of the Decision of the Administrative Council, a detailed Official Journal Notice and training offers.

The EPO also presented a status report on recent developments in videoconferencing (VICO) infrastructure, with a focus on oral proceedings in opposition. SACEPO members expressed a wide range of opinions. There was a general appreciation of the efforts made by the Office in the area of oral proceedings by VICO. Members finally made proposals with regard to concrete improvements, particularly regarding audio issues.

The EPO also presented a series of proposals to further increase the transparency and speed of the processing of divisional applications, including earlier publication and - in specific situations - summons as a first action.

Topics relating to international patent law also featured on the agenda. A report on the main findings of the EPO’s study on the grace period was discussed, along with an update on national user consultations on substantive patent law harmonisation and the outcome of the Group B+ Plenary meeting.

SACEPO members were also updated on the final preparations for the launch of the Unitary Patent – with an emphasis on national top-up searches and the transitional period during which the EPO’s measures to support the early uptake of the Unitary Patent will apply – as well as on the convergence programme which is now focusing on the topics “Claim drafting and structure” and “Examination practice for computer-implemented inventions and artificial intelligence”.

Finally, proposals regarding future authentication measures and the acceptance of multi-language PCT applications were supported by SACEPO members.

Further information

SP2023 – Goal 2: Digital transformation

172nd meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (Munich, 13 October 2022)

EPO impact analysis on the European patent system and the grace period

Convergence of practice

Unitary Patent: Transitional measures to support early uptake