Notice from the European Patent Office dated 1 February 2023 concerning the decommissioning of outgoing faxes
To date, the EPO has generally sent faxes in the patent grant procedure as a courtesy service, to convey advance urgent information.
Fax is not an official notification method under the EPC. Over recent years, the number of faxes sent by the EPO in the patent grant process has significantly decreased. In addition, fax transmissions have become increasingly unreliable.
In the context of the digital transformation of the patent grant procedure pursued under its Strategic Plan 2023, the EPO has improved and expanded its Mailbox service for electronic notification. The Mailbox now covers 99% (by volume) of communications issued in proceedings before the EPO and is available to all users located in an EPC contracting state, for both EPC and PCT proceedings. The extension of the Mailbox to international users via the new PCT Link service is currently being piloted.[ 1 ] Electronic notification via the Mailbox occurs on the same day on which a document is issued by the EPO, allowing for rapid delivery of urgent communications. It is possible to set up email alerts for new incoming communications.[ 2 ]
In view of these developments, the EPO will no longer send faxes in proceedings under the EPC and the PCT as of 1 March 2023. This will contribute to the sustainability of the EPO's services.
Instead of using fax, the EPO will proceed as follows to convey urgent information to users:
- As regards European patent applications, Mailbox users will receive any urgent communications from the EPO via the Mailbox. Users who have not yet opted for electronic notification via the Mailbox will be asked to provide an email address to which an urgent communication will be sent for advance information as a courtesy service. In such cases, the relevant communication will also be dispatched by post, as it is at present.
- As regards international applications, Mailbox users (including PCT Link users) will receive any urgent communications from the EPO via the Mailbox. Users who have not yet opted for electronic notification via the Mailbox (including the PCT Link service) will generally be contacted by email for urgent communications using the email address provided in the PCT request form. Notification by post will follow. In proceedings before the EPO acting either as International Searching Authority (ISA) or International Preliminary Examination Authority (IPEA), applicants willing to receive electronic communications in place of paper communications via surface mail are invited to activate the new PCT Link service in MyEPO Portfolio.[ 3 ]
As a result of this change of practice, the EPO will progressively make the required changes in the relevant EPO forms by removing any fields in which users are asked to provide a fax number. Any reply to communications exceptionally sent by email for urgent advance information must be filed via an official means of filing authorised in proceedings before the EPO.
The present notice does not affect the filing of applications and other documents by fax, which remains available under the conditions defined by the President of the EPO.[ 4 ] Anticipating future digital developments, the EPO has however started reflecting on the future of fax filings and will engage in discussions on this matter with stakeholders.
[ 1 ] See Notice from the European Patent Office dated 10 October 2022 concerning phase 2 of the MyEPO Portfolio pilot project, OJ EPO 2022, A94.
[ 2 ] Users can set up email alerts for communications arriving to the Mailbox in the MyEPO Portfolio service (see Notice from the European Patent Office dated 11 May 2022 concerning the web-based online service MyEPO Portfolio, OJ EPO 2022, A52).
[ 3 ] Available at epo.org/applying/online-services/improving.html
[ 4 ] See Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 20 February 2019 concerning the filing of patent applications and other documents by facsimile (OJ EPO 2019, A18).