Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 14 May 2021 concerning the electronic filing of documents
THE PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE,
HAS DECIDED AS FOLLOWS:
(1) Documents may, in accordance with this decision and without prejudice to other means of filing, be filed electronically using EPO Online Filing (OLF), Online Filing 2.0 or the EPO's web-form filing service (web-form filing).
(2) Filings using OLF may be made online or on electronic data carriers accepted by the European Patent Office (EPO). Data carriers accepted by the EPO are
(a) CD-R discs conforming to the ISO 9660 standard
(b) DVD-R discs
(c) DVD+R discs
Admissibility of electronic filing
(1) Subject to Articles 3 and 4 of this decision, European patent applications, international (PCT) applications and other documents relating to such applications or to patents deriving from such applications may be filed with the EPO in electronic form.
(2) European patent applications may also be filed in electronic form with the competent national authorities of those contracting states which so permit, using OLF or other services for electronic filing, provided they are accepted by the EPO.
Limited scope of web-form filing
(1) Authorisations, documents in respect of opposition, limitation and revocation proceedings (Articles 99 to 105c EPC), documents in respect of appeal proceedings (Articles 106 to 112 EPC) or documents in respect of proceedings for review by the Enlarged Board of Appeal of decisions of the Boards of Appeal (Article 112a EPC) must not be filed using web-form filing.
(2) Documents filed in contravention of paragraph 1 will be deemed not to have been received. The sender, if identifiable, will be notified without delay.
(1) Priority documents relating to European patent applications or international patent applications in the European phase may be filed electronically using OLF or Online Filing 2.0, provided they have been digitally signed by the issuing authority and the signature is accepted by the EPO.
(2) Web-form filing must not be used for the electronic filing of priority documents.
(3) Priority documents filed in contravention of paragraphs 1 or 2 will be deemed not to have been received. The sender, if identifiable, will be notified without delay.
Sequence listings may only be filed in accordance with the provisions governing the filing of sequence listings.[ 1 ]
Access to electronic filing
(1) The use of OLF with the EPO requires a smart card.
(2) Access to and use of Online Filing 2.0 provided on the EPO website requires a smart card registered for this service.
(3) Access to and use of web-form filing provided on the EPO website requires prior registration on the EPO website. If abuse or unauthorised use is suspected, the EPO may cancel or refuse a user's registration.
(1) Filings with the EPO using OLF require certificates issued or accepted by the EPO.
(2) The use of Online Filing 2.0 requires certificates issued by the EPO.
(3) The EPO accepts certificates issued to individuals by the following certification authorities:
Specific requirements for OLF
(1) Documents filed using OLF are to be packaged and submitted using the software provided free of charge by the EPO[ 2 ] and using certificates under Article 7(1) of this decision. Subject to prior acceptance by the EPO, other software[ 3 ] may also be used.
(2) Documents filed on an electronic data carrier must be accompanied by a paper document identifying the applicant and/or their representative, indicating an address for correspondence and listing the files stored on the data carrier.
Integration of ePCT in Online Filing 2.0
Online Filing 2.0 integrates for international (PCT) applications and other documents relating to such applications the relevant features of the ePCT service.
(1) Documents filed using OLF or Online Filing 2.0 must be in PDF or, where allowed, in XML in accordance with the Administrative Instructions under the PCT, Part 7 and Annex F, without prejudice to the possibility to attach documents in their original data format under Article 11.
(2) Documents filed using web-form filing must be in PDF, in accordance with the Administrative Instructions under the PCT, Part 7 and Annex F.
Original data formats
(1) Technical documents relating to a European or international patent application may in addition be attached to the application in the data format in which they were created, provided the files contain either plain ASCII text or were created with one of the following word processing programs:
(a) Microsoft Word 2010 or later
(b) Corel WordPerfect 2000 or later
(c) OpenOffice Writer version 4.0 or later (including the corresponding StarOffice products)
(2) Objects created in other programs may be embedded into documents generated with the word processing programs specified in paragraph 1 above as long as they can be viewed without any loss of information.
(3) Technical documents in a format other than those mentioned in paragraph 1 above may be attached in that format only if the applicant informs the European Patent Office at the time of filing where it can reasonably acquire the relevant software.
(1) Where filed documents require signature, this may take the form of a facsimile signature or a text string signature. When OLF is used, the signature may also take the form of an enhanced electronic signature.
(2) A facsimile signature is a reproduction of the filing person's signature.
(3) A text string signature is a string of characters, preceded and followed by a forward slash (/), selected by the signatory to prove their identity and their intent to sign.
(4) An enhanced electronic signature is an electronic signature issued or accepted by the EPO and confirmed with certificates under Article 7(1) of this decision.
Acknowledgement of receipt
(1) Receipt of documents filed online using OLF, Online Filing 2.0 or web-form filing in accordance with this decision is acknowledged electronically by the EPO or the competent national authority of the contracting state concerned (hereinafter "the office") following successful submission. The acknowledgment of receipt is provided
(a) digitally signed by the office within the submission session, for documents filed online using OLF,
(b) digitally signed by the EPO in Online Filing 2.0, for documents filed using this service, and
(c) on the website, once the files are transferred using web-form filing; an acknowledgement of receipt is also sent by email to the address supplied by the sender, if so requested.
(2) Where such acknowledgement is not successfully transmitted using OLF or Online Filing 2.0, the office will transmit it by other means without delay, provided it has sufficient information to do so.
(3) The acknowledgement indicates the identity of the office, the date and time of receipt, a reference or application number assigned by the office, a list of the files submitted and, for online filings using OLF or Online Filing 2.0, a hash value (the message digest). For documents filed using web-form filing, the EPO may, in order to protect the integrity of its IT systems, dispense with the indication of an application number in the acknowledgement of receipt.
(4) Acknowledgement of receipt does not imply the accordance of a date of filing to an application.
(5) Documents filed on electronic data carriers are subject mutatis mutandis to the provisions governing the filing of documents on paper.
Illegible or incomplete documents and infected files
(1) Where a filed document is illegible or incomplete, that part of it which is illegible or missing will be deemed not to have been received.
(2) If a filed document is infected with a computer virus or contains other malicious software, it will be deemed to be illegible. The office is not obliged to receive, open or process any document with such a deficiency.
(3) Where a filed document is found to be deficient within the meaning of paragraph 1 or 2, the sender, if identifiable, will be notified without delay.
Previous decisions superseded
When this decision enters into force, the decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 3 March 2021 concerning the electronic filing of documents (OJ EPO 2021, A20) and the decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 12 July 2007 concerning the electronic signatures, data carriers and software to be used for the electronic filing of patent applications and other documents (Special edition No. 3, OJ EPO 2007, A5) will cease to have effect.
Entry into force
This decision enters into force on 1 January 2022.
Done at Munich, 14 May 2021
[ 1 ] Rule 30 EPC, Rule 13ter PCT, the decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 28 April 2011 on the filing of sequence listings, OJ EPO 2011, 372, and the notice from the European Patent Office dated 18 October 2013 concerning the filing of sequence listings, OJ EPO 2013, 542. The decision of the President and the notice are scheduled for revision in the second half of 2021.
[ 3 ] Notice from the European Patent Office dated 12 July 2007 concerning the electronic filing of European patent applications with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA), Special edition No. 3, OJ EPO 2007, A6.