Coronavirus (COVID-19) - continually updated information

Information for customers, external partners and potential visitors to the EPO

Last updated: 3 June 2020

EPO President António Campinos

In view of the present situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the European Patent Office (EPO) is adopting the following preventive measures.

We understand this may cause some business disruption and apologise for any inconvenience caused. We are continuously monitoring the situation and will provide updates as necessary.

Coronavirus: message to our users

To all our users,

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus our Office has taken measures to ensure the health of our staff and continue to fulfil our mission to our users. Now more than ever, Europe needs a Patent Office that can support innovation in making our world safer, smarter and more sustainable - something which I talk about in the video above.

We are going to support you, our users, in getting through whatever trials you face in the patent system, and whatever the obstacles ahead. We will do so by continuing to search for new, easier ways to interact. We will adapt to your needs as they evolve. We will give you predictability, quality and timeliness, by making sure we deliver all the other goals in our strategic plan.

We understand that you may have questions or concerns about your patent applications or any of the other services we offer. Our staff are on hand to help and answer any queries you may have, via the contact form or by phone. You can also find regular updates on the ongoing measures we're taking, and any effects on our services, on this webpage. Its contents will be updated continuously to give you instant access to the latest information.

Above all, take care of yourselves, and I wish you and your loved ones good health

António Campinos

Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits

In view of the disruptions to public life caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the EPO is drawing attention to the legal remedies applicable in case of non-observance of time limits. These remedies are available for users located in areas directly affected by disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak and apply to parties and representatives in proceedings under the EPC and the PCT. The following notice provides all relevant information, replaces the previous Notice dated 1 May 2020 and will be published in the EPO’s June Official Journal

The extension of time limits also applies to periods for paying fees, including renewal fees. The following notice contains information about the amounts due following the general fee increase on 1 April 2020.

Other measures as regards the payment of fees in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic

Following the decision of the Administrative Council CA/D 6/20 dated 28 May 2020 it is possible as of 1 June 2020 to pay renewal fees due on or after 15 March 2020 up until 31 August 2020 inclusive without being charged the additional fee under Rule 51(2) EPC.

For more information on this measure, please consult the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 29 May 2020 concerning the temporary suspension of the application of Rule 51(2) of the European Patent Convention with respect to an additional fee for the late payment of renewal fees for patent applications (Article 2(1), item 5, of the Rules relating to fees).

Oral Proceedings before Examining and Opposition Divisions

In view of the ongoing disruptions caused by the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) the European Patent Office (EPO) has decided to postpone until further notice all oral proceedings in opposition scheduled until 14 September 2020 (previously until 2 June 2020) which have not either already been confirmed to take place by videoconference or will be held by videoconference with the parties' consent under the pilot project (Article 2 of the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 14 April 2020 concerning the pilot project for oral proceedings by videoconference before opposition divisions). Oral proceedings in examination will continue to be held by videoconference in accordance with the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings by videoconference before examining divisions.

Oral Proceedings before the Boards of Appeal

The Boards of Appeal resume the holding of oral proceedings, to a limited extent, at their premises in Haar from Monday, 18 May 2020. Parties will be contacted accordingly by communication. They will be requested to confirm that they expect to be able to attend in person and that they do not anticipate being affected by travel restrictions. To facilitate the arrangement of oral proceedings, parties and their representatives will be asked to inform the registry as soon as possible whether they plan to attend.

Using electronic filing, receiving electronic notifications and staying informed via electronic alerts

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to disruptions in the postal services in a number of countries and to restrictions on people's movements. The EPO offers its users various services which can help them to communicate with it and keep up to date despite this situation and would therefore like to draw your attention to the following options for electronic filing, receiving electronic notifications and staying informed of procedural events via electronic alerts.

Electronic filing

European applications, international applications under the PCT and subsequent submissions can be filed using one of the EPO's electronic filing tools Online Filing, web-form filing (WFF) or new online filing (CMS) or by fax (see Rule 2 EPC, Rule 89.bis PCT, Guidelines A-II, 1.2-1.4, OJ EPO 2018, A45, A46). The ePCT system can also be used for international applications under the PCT and subsequent filings. An overview of the various filing options is available in this comparative table. The option of filing by WFF is especially helpful if you do not have a smart card or cannot use it. All you need to do to use WFF is register. More detailed information about WFF can be found here on the EPO website and in the related FAQ.

At present, the use of email to perform procedural acts is restricted: the EPO allows email submissions during telephone consultations and interviews and oral proceedings held as a videoconference (Decision of the President of the European Patent Office dated 13 May 2020). Apart from this exception, however, email filing cannot be used to validly perform any procedural act under the EPC or the PCT and, in particular, cannot be used to comply with time limits (see OJ EPO 2000, 458).

Electronic notification and electronic alerts

The following EPO or WIPO services allow you to receive notifications or alerts from the EPO electronically or to access your files online.

  • EPO My Files service: This service enables applicants to access their published and unpublished European application files via a secure connection, using a smart card and PIN. More information is available here on the EPO website, including an online tutorial, a quick reference guide and a FAQ section.
  • EPO Register Alert service: This alert service allows you to monitor changes to data in the European Patent Register for published European applications and published Euro‑PCT applications which have entered the European phase. You can keep track of up to 1000 applications and patents of your choice and opt to receive an email alert whenever there is a change triggering a register event. Register events include notifications from the EPO. The document associated with a new entry can be accessed via the European Patent Register. You can even use this service to monitor your own applications by selecting them in the tool. More information is available here on the EPO website, including an introductory video and a FAQ section.
  • WIPO's ePCT system: Applicants who open an ePCT account (here on the WIPO website) can:
    • file international applications with the RO/IB, RO/EP or any other participating receiving Office;
    • electronically access their applications (either filed through their ePCT account or linked to it) at any time;
    • submit documents to the IB, RO/EP, ISA/EP, IPEA/EP and other participating Authorities by upload;
    • change their account settings to receive automatic email notifications of any documents newly added by any Authority (RO, ISA/IPEA, IB);
    • access any documents issued by any Authority (RO, ISA/IPEA, IB).

The EPO does not send notifications or advance copies of communications by email in proceedings under either the EPC or the PCT. However, it may exceptionally use additional means of communication (e.g. email) to send parties advance copies of communications informing them of cancellations and postponements of oral proceedings.

A joint message of support for inventors from the USPTO and EPO

EPO USPTO logos30 April 2020

Responding to COVID-19
A joint message of support for inventors from the USPTO and EPO

The coronavirus outbreak has changed our daily lives almost beyond recognition. The staff of the European Patent Office (EPO) and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) stand in solidarity with everyone affected.

Beyond the instances of personal hardship, we are now seeing a significant negative impact on the global economy. Every day, we learn further of the economic effects in nations in various degrees of lockdown.

In these challenging times, it is our innovators, inventors and all those involved in pioneering research who will play a central role in the recovery of our economies and societies. In both the US and Europe, industries that make intensive use of intellectual property rights (IPR) generate approximately 40% of GDP and are directly and indirectly responsible for around 30% of jobs. They are the driving force behind exports, amounting to more than one trillion USD or EUR each year.

Among these IPR-intensive industries are the innovative companies, research centers and universities that are researching and developing tests, vaccines, and treatments that could put an end to the coronavirus pandemic. Their work is fundamental to us as people and as a society fighting to take care of its vulnerable members and those in need of medical care. Indeed, such innovation has long served as the driving engine of human development, and will continue to do so.

To support innovation during this crisis, the USPTO and the EPO stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the innovation community. Our Offices are now offering assistance through time extensions and fee deadlines, as well as flexibility on hearings, such as offering video conferences or postponements.1 By doing so, we hope to continue supporting inventors with high-quality intellectual property rights that help them attract investment and licence technology, create jobs, and enter new markets with confidence and predictability.

Our Offices will spare no effort to give users the support they need. We will develop our capacity to respond to the difficult circumstances that applicants face. At a time when the dissemination of knowledge is crucial, we will persevere in developing the tools that can help scientists all over the world. We will continue to enrich our public patent databases, which are free to access and contain hundreds of millions of documents from all over the world. They present a wealth of technological knowledge that can help inventors and researchers everywhere build on previous developments, gain new insight and help identify potential suppliers, technology partners, and customers.

The USPTO and the EPO stand united in our effort to support the public in this crucial time, and we will build on our longstanding relationship to provide everyone in the IP community with the support they need.

  • Andrei Iancu
    USPTO Director
  • António Campinos
    EPO President

1 For more information on how the USPTO and EPO are adapting their services and regulations in response to the coronavirus pandemic, see their websites: www.epo.org/news-issues/covid-19.html and www.uspto.gov/coronavirus.

EQE

EQE 2020 - CANCELLED

The Supervisory Board has decided to cancel the EQE 2020 in its entirety without replacement (pre-examination and main examination papers).

Since the cancellation of the examination dates of 16-19 March 2020 the EPO has made every effort to find a suitable alternative to these dates. However, it remains uncertain as to whether the strict anti-COVID-19 measures taken by the governments of most countries to protect the health and safety of the public in general will be lifted in time for an EQE 2020 to be held later this year.

We know how important the EQE is to the patent world and how much effort and time candidates invest in preparing for the examination, but in view of the current situation and the lack of certainty with regard to the future, we trust that everyone will understand the reasons for this decision.

In these exceptional circumstances, the EPO and epi have made a thorough search for alternatives to ease this inconvenient situation for candidates of 2020 EQE as far as possible. Ease of access to EQE 2021 will be created for these candidates as follows: all candidates who had enrolled for the 2020 pre-examination paper will be allowed to enrol for the 2021 main examination without having passed a pre-examination. This will also be possible for registered candidates who have completed the required professional activities/training period. Candidates who had enrolled for 2020 main examination papers will be considered to be enrolled for those papers in 2021.

For future examinations, with a view to saving resources and rendering procedures more efficient – also for the benefit of candidates - the EPO, together with the epi, will explore all possibilities to arrive at a paperless process and procedures. This will be advantageous not just for the EQE but for all procedures.

Events

We are postponing all EPO organised events in March, April and May. Organisers will contact participants on an individual basis and, where possible, inform them of the new dates.

The 2020 edition of the European Inventor Award, planned to be held in Monaco on 17-18 June, has also been postponed. The event will take place in Monaco on 17 June 2021.

EPO customer services

During this exceptionally challenging time, maintaining high-quality services and an open dialogue with our users remains a top priority. Our customer services helpdesk remains fully operational and available to answer your questions on any aspect of the EPO and our operations.

For health and safety reasons, all our customer service agents have been fully equipped to work from home. You can therefore continue to expect the same level of service that underpins our commitment to quality for all users. Our dedicated key account managers are also reaching out to their customers to keep them up-to-date on any developments.

When requesting a smart card, if you are not a professional representative before the EPO or an otherwise authorised employee and there is no authorised person available to countersign your request, please attach a copy of your ID card, passport or driving licence. 

We have upped our capacity in preparation for an increase in requests for smart card readers.

Feel free to contact us by email at support@epo.org, via the website contact form or by telephone. (Customer services are available by phone from Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 18:00 CET.)

External partners

We are requesting external partners to abstain from visiting the EPO if they have recently visited a high risk area.

For oral proceedings, please see the relevant section above.

Staff working from home

Staff at all sites are being provided the means to work from home and many are doing so. The Office fully remains at the service of users and we will ensure the full functioning of our technical infrastructure. Further updates may follow.

Chronological list of updates to this page

The following is a chronological list of updates and amendments to this webpage from 11 May provided as a courtesy to readers.

In urgent situations where speed of action takes precedence, updates may initially appear in English only, even on the German and French pages. Corresponding translations will be added as they become available. The addition of translations is not included in the list below.

Updated on Time of update Reason for update
3.6.2020
12:00 hrs CET
Section updated: Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits
3.6.2020
07:50 hrs CET
Section updated: Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits
3.6.2020
00:10 hrs CET
Section updated: Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits
27.5.2020
15:30 hrs CET
Section updated: Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits 
25.5.2020
16.40 hrs CET
Section updated: Oral Proceedings before the Boards of Appeal
21.5.2020
15.00 hrs CET
Section updated: Oral Proceedings before Examining and Opposition Divisions
19.5.2020
16.00 hrs CET
Section updated: Oral Proceedings before the Boards of Appeal
19.5.2020
13.00 hrs CET
Section updated: Oral Proceedings before Examining and Opposition Divisions
19.5.2020
12.30 hrs CET
Section updated: Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits
15.5.2020
11.00 hrs CET
Section updated: Staff working from home
15.5.2020
08.00 hrs CET
Section updated: Oral Proceedings before the Boards of Appeal
14.5.2020
08.00 hrs CET
Section updated: Using electronic filing, receiving electronic notifications and staying informed via electronic alerts
13.5.2020
20.00 hrs CET Section updated: Oral Proceedings before Examining and Opposition Divisions
13.5.2020
14.30 hrs CET Section updated: Oral Proceedings before Examining and Opposition Divisions
11.5.2020 15.00 hrs CET New section added: Chronological list of updates to this page

International risk areas

As of 10/04/2020 countries and regions are no longer classified as international risk areas. Due to pandemic spread, there is a global risk of acquiring COVID-19. In a considerable number of countries there are outbreaks with sometimes large numbers of cases; the exact numbers of cases in other countries are not known. Therefore there is a risk of transmission in Germany as well as in many other, not always well-defined regions worldwide.

Please note that the definition of areas affected by the spread of the Coronavirus may be subject to change.

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