1.1. Notification by postal services

In R. 126 EPC, and also in R. 125(2) and 133(1) EPC, references to "post" have been replaced by "postal services" and "postal service providers" in 2015. This gives the Office the freedom to choose any postal service provider it regards as suited to serving notification.

In view of the low return rate of advices of delivery and the notable administrative burden associated with their processing, R. 126(1) EPC was amended by Administrative Council decision CA/D 2/19 (OJ 2019, A31) to remove the requirement to notify by registered mail with advice of delivery. Decisions incurring a period for appeal or a petition for review, summons and any notice or other communication triggering a time limit must instead be notified by registered letter, if not notified electronically. Amended R. 126(1) EPC is proposed to come into force on 1 November 2019.

In T 1693/13, the EPO had notified the contested decision using courier service UPS before R. 126 EPC as amended had entered into force. The board held that the appellant had been entitled in the circumstances to assume that the UPS courier service was treated as "post" within the meaning of R. 126 EPC as then still in force and that it made no difference to how the appeal period was determined under that provision whether a decision had been sent by post or by UPS. In contrast, in G 1/14 the Enlarged Board took the view that old R. 126(1) EPC related solely to notification by post using a "registered letter with advice of delivery" and not to any other kind (by UPS in the case in hand). See also chapter V.B.2.3.3.

In J 9/96 the Legal Board of Appeal held that notification of a communication posted as an ordinary letter in accordance with R. 78(2) EPC 1973 (no longer applicable since 1.1.1999) was deemed to have been made when despatch had taken place. However, if the communication did not reach the addressee and was not returned to the EPO, the legal fiction of deemed notification could not be applied, unless the EPO could establish that it had duly despatched the communication (see also J 27/97 and J 32/97). On the question of apportioning the burden of proof and spheres of risk in connection with notification irregularities, see in this chapter III.S.4.

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