Notice from the European Patent Office dated 27 March 2020 concerning the electronic authentication of decisions and other documents relevant to the decision-making process
1. Under Rule 113(1) EPC, decisions, summonses, notices and communications from the European Patent Office (EPO) must be signed by, and state the name of, the employee responsible. Rule 113(2) EPC provides that the signature can be replaced by an EPO seal if the document concerned is produced using a computer.
2. To allow verification by the parties and the public that all the members of an examining or opposition division assume responsibility for the content of their decision, the authenticity of sealed decisions can currently be verified by inspecting an accompanying form containing the handwritten signatures of the employees concerned.
3. As of 1 April 2020, the EPO will implement a mechanism to electronically authenticate decisions and other documents relevant to the decision-making process.
4. As a first step, this new process will apply to communications under Rule 71(3) EPC considering that the text in which a European patent is granted is determined in the decision to grant by referring to the documents which have been communicated to and approved by the applicant.
5. Under the new process, once a communication under Rule 71(3) EPC has been approved electronically by each member of the examining division, their names will appear on the relevant form together with an indication that the communication has been electronically authenticated.
6. The electronic authentication of communications under Rule 71(3) EPC will start on 1 April 2020 and be gradually applied to all such communications issued as of that date.
7. The new authentication process will be extended to decisions and other documents relevant to the decision-making process besides communications under Rule 71(3) EPC in the near future.