Working with users to improve the European patent granting process and patent documentation

7 April 2021

Three Working Parties of the Standing Advisory Committee of the EPO (SACEPO) met virtually in March, following the appointment of new members last January. Three different videoconferences were organised to gather user feedback from the SACEPO Working Parties on Rules, e-Patent Process, and Patent Documentation and Information.

During the meetings, the following EPO initiatives were discussed:

  • Pilot on oral proceedings by videoconference in opposition: The EPO was praised for the swift launch of this pilot in the midst of the pandemic. To date more than 2 600 oral proceedings have been conducted by VICO, efficiently reducing backlogs in opposition. Starting January 2021, the first witness hearings have also been conducted by VICO, with the entry into force of new Rules 117 and 118 EPC allowing for the taking of evidence within this framework.
  • Online Filing 2.0: Following a successful pilot earlier this year, the EPO has launched its new electronic filing tool on 1 April 2021. Users expressed their appreciation for continuing the DOCX filing project as a pilot, as well as maintaining OLF for the coming years.
  • New Online User Engagement programme: Under the umbrella of the EPO’s Strategic Plan 2023, the programme will provide applicants and representatives with new online patent grant services in filing and submissions, mailbox communications and application portfolio management.
  • EPO Patent Information products and services: Compliments were received on the new Espacenet, as well as suggestions for improvements to simplify the tool for occasional users. Very positive feedback was also received regarding the proposal to add CPC symbols to patent documents and regarding the new EPO website project.
  • CNIPA-EPO Pilot on ISA files: The pilot launched on 1 December 2020 gives nationals and residents of P.R. China the option of selecting the EPO as their International Searching Authority (ISA) and as their International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA) when filing PCT applications with either the CNIPA or the International Bureau of WIPO as receiving Office.
  • Update on the Convergence of Practice programme under the Strategic Plan 2023, in particular the results achieved concerning the examination of unity of invention and the designation of the inventor.

Overall, the SACEPO meetings provided an excellent forum for in-depth exchange, helping the Office to better understand the needs and views of its users

The next online meeting on 20 and 21 April 2021 will gather feedback from the SACEPO Working Party on Quality. It is foreseen that the remote participation of members will continue to be offered as an option to encourage broader participation in meetings and reduce costs and time dedicated to travel, in addition to helping ensure the health and safety of participants in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, for the first time, the membership of the SACEPO and its Working Parties for the term 2021-2023 has been extended to include user representatives from all over the world. The aim is to enrich the user feedback and to continuously extend the EPO’s worldwide reach. The EPO welcomes all the newly appointed members.

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