New European Qualifying Examination regulations approved

On 14 December 2023, the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation unanimously approved amendments to the “Regulation on the European Qualifying Examination” for the purposes of launching the new European Qualifying Examination (EQE) in 2025, complete with transitional measures for current EQE candidates.

The decision of the Administrative Council is an important step in an extensive EQE reform process spearheaded by a collaborative effort between the European Patent Office (EPO) and the Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office (epi). The amendments to the EQE regulations respond to the views of a wide range of stakeholders who, over the past three years, have contributed their expertise via consultations, written contributions and dedicated meetings. The latest development marks a significant milestone in the continued modernisation of the EQE, which will uphold the highest standards while helping to secure the future of the patent profession.

Core principles

The amended regulations and the forthcoming implementing provisions revolve around the core principles of progressiveness, modularity, inclusivity and sustainability as part of a competence-based approach. In addition to providing the foundations for a complete redesign of the examination, they will enable the integration of modern examination methods and assessment techniques, as well as the alignment of the examination with the latest practical requirements of the patent profession. At the same time, they address the demands of the fit-to-practise criterion in a dynamic and digital professional environment, thereby contributing to a well-functioning patent system.

The structure of the new EQE will be sequenced to capture declarative, procedural and strategic knowledge, from basic legal knowledge to the performance of complex substantive patent practice and strategy advice. Five new modules to comprehensively assess knowledge and skills are designed to bring the EQE closer to the daily reality of the profession.

Introduction of new modules begins in 2025

To embark on the five modules, candidates are required to have performed professional activities for one year in the case of Module F, for two years in the cases of Module 1 and 2, and for three years in the case of Modules 3 and 4. To facilitate a seamless transition for current candidates, transitional measures have been introduced, allowing the candidates and other stakeholders ample time to adjust.

Starting in 2025, the new modules will be gradually introduced, while the existing papers will be phased out by 2027 over the three-year period as follows:

  • In 2025, all main examination papers under the present regulations will be available. The pre-examination will be cancelled and not be held anymore. The new Module F will be launched.
  • In 2026, the main examination papers under the present regulations and new modules F, M1 and M2 will co-exist. This will be the last year when the exam will be held in the “old” format.
  • From 2027 onwards the fully-fledged new EQE modules will be in place

Finally, detailed rules will apply to candidates who have already passed some of the “old” papers.

Next steps concerning implementation

The Administrative Council’s approval of “Regulation on the European Qualifying Examination” (REE) will be complemented by the Implementing Provisions of the REE (IPREE), which will shape the practical aspects of the EQE and are expected to be finalised pursuant to a decision of the EQE Supervisory Board due by the end of December 2023.