1.2.3 Language issues

Before the EPC 2000, a European patent application could only be filed in one of the official languages of the EPO (Art. 14(1) EPC 1973) or, by persons benefiting from the "language privilege", in an "admissible non-EPO language" with a translation into one of the official languages to be filed (Art. 14(2) EPC 1973). In line with Art. 5 PLT, Art. 14(2) EPC now provides that the application may be filed in one of the official languages or in "any other language". In the latter case a translation has to be provided (see chapter III.F.1. "Language of filing and date of filing of a European patent application").

In T 382/94 (OJ 1998, 24) the board held that if the drawings were filed in full on the date of filing, they formed part of the application as filed, even if they contained text matter in an official language other than the language of the proceedings. The amendment of the application, based on the English-language text matter in the drawings as filed, did not represent an infringement of Art. 123(2) EPC 1973.

In T 605/93 the board held that where the application documents of the European application as filed were a translation of the international application as it was filed, the content of the "application as filed" was that of the international application as it was filed (see also T 1402/09, T 923/13 and T 1981/15). In all normal circumstances, it ought however to be assumed that the published European application was identical in content with the published international application (T 605/93, see also T 549/09). Only when there were reasonable grounds to doubt this presumption in a particular case was further investigation and, where necessary, the production of evidence required (T 1010/07, T 1981/15).

In T 287/98 the original application in Dutch contained the word "schroot", which means scrap metal, as substantiated by the copies of various dictionaries provided by the appellant. According to the board, this word was not correctly translated into English by the word "scrap" and nothing other than "scrap metal" was meant in the application as originally filed. The board decided that the replacement of the word "scrap" by "scrap metal" was allowable under Art. 123(2) EPC 1973 since Art. 70(2) EPC 1973 provided that in a case referred to in Art. 14(2) EPC 1973, i.e. in which the European patent application was filed in a language of a contracting state other than English, French or German, the original text had to be taken into account in order to determine whether the subject‑matter of the application extended beyond the content of the application as filed. For further cases under Art. 14(2) EPC and Art. 123(2) and (3) EPC, see e.g. T 516/12 and T 1585/12.

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