Users meet to discuss improvements for the Guidelines 2025 and the development of future UP Guidelines

The SACEPO Working Party on Guidelines (SACEPO WP/G) convened on 25 April 2024. The recently appointed members discussed the responses to this year’s public user consultation on the EPC and PCT-EPO Guidelines, which included comments and suggestions on the revision cycle itself as well as the future Unitary Patent (UP) Guidelines.

This year, 168 comments were filed for all eight parts the EPC Guidelines and 23 for the PCT-EPO Guidelines

The comments and discussions covered several topics, including the examination of computer-implemented inventions and artificial intelligence, the processing of third-party observations and requests for accelerated prosecution (PACE). In general, users welcomed clarified examples and updated sections in the texts. Where the requested updates or clarifications could not be adopted, the EPO provided explanations of the relevant legal background. The EPO also confirmed that the new EPC Guidelines will include changes related to the fee system in force since 1 April 2024. Some details related to the acceleration of opposition proceedings in case of parallel proceedings before the Unified Patent Court will also be included.

The EPO explained the language modernisation in the English text of Parts A, B and C of the EPC Guidelines and its main goal, which is to erase outdated language by replacing it with shorter and simpler expressions commonly used in modern written English. Language modernisation will be extended to other Parts in the Guidelines, ensuring that the English is consistently aligned with the EPC. Moreover, the EPO aims to apply gender-neutral language in the French and German versions to the extent possible.

The EPO gave an outlook for the future Guidelines for the Unitary Patent procedure, which will be published in 2025. The users’ suggestions regarding these new Guidelines were well received.

Next steps

Following constructive exchanges during this SACEPO WP/G, the EPO will conduct a feasibility study on the suggestions concerning the revision cycle itself. User contributions adopted during the meeting will lay the basis for the updates to next year’s Guidelines. The draft EPC and PCT-EPO Guidelines 2025, as well as the new UP Guidelines, will be distributed to SACEPO WP/G members before the summer break for review and comments.

The second regular meeting of the SACEPO WP/G in the 2024 revision cycle will take place on 9 October. The EPO will then present the outcome of the feasibility study, discuss the draft Guidelines 2025 with the members and agree on further improvements before the Guidelines enter into force on 1 March 2025. 

A statistical summary of the 191 user comments has been published on our website. As last year, the EPO will publish the complete consultation results on its website following their presentation to the Patent Law Committee next autumn.