Where the description, claims or drawings fail to comply with a requirement, such as clarity or support of the claims by the description, to such an extent that no meaningful search can be made, the examiner may informally contact the applicant to clarify specific aspects of the application before the search is carried out. Such informal clarification may help the examiner to focus the search better. It is highly recommended to invite the applicant to provide such informal clarification before issuing an incomplete ISR or a declaration of no search. However, there is no legal obligation on the examiner to use it and no legal consequences in the PCT if the applicant does not respond. An incomplete search report or a declaration of no search may still be issued without prior clarification.
Informal clarification may take the form of a telephone consultation or of a written request (Form PCT/ISA/207) sent by fax. In both cases the applicant can be given a short time limit (normally two weeks) to respond. In view of the short time limits in the PCT, a telephone consultation, for which minutes must be written, may be more appropriate. If the issues at stake can be clarified during the telephone consultation, no time limit will be given. The examiner will send the minutes of the consultation for information and will prepare the ISR and WO‑ISA taking the result of the consultation into account.
Alternatively, a written request for clarification can be sent by fax. This is in particular appropriate when dealing with non-European representatives due to potential time zone differences and linguistic problems, and/or when the issue to be discussed is not suitable for a telephone consultation.