11 March 2022
Yesterday, the SACEPO Working Party on Rules met online - the first of two meetings planned for 2022 - as the EPO prepares a range of legal changes in support of the further digital transformation of its patent grant process. The meeting saw constructive exchanges of views between 12 high-level users representing, among others, BusinessEurope, the epi, AIPPI, FEMIPI, FICPI and UNION-IP and members of the EPO management and legal and technical staff.
The EPO began by presenting a series of proposals for amendments to the EPC Implementing Regulations, including Rules 46, 49, 50, 126, 127 and 131. These proposals were broadly welcomed, with the SACEPO members agreeing that the EPO needs to fully digitise its procedures. There were lively and constructive discussions on how to best modernise the rules for presentation of application documents and on the proposals for modifying time limits calculations where the EPO notifies a communication.
The EPO also presented a status report on oral proceedings by videoconference (ViCo), including the latest statistics and a general update on acceptance and satisfaction levels. Increasingly, users now stress the advantages of ViCo in terms of reduced environmental impact and cost savings, as opposed to hearings in person. Constructive exchange on further improvements of the ViCo infrastructure took place with practical ideas shared by the user representatives.
As requested by SACEPO members, the meeting included an exchange on possible improvements to the opposition procedure, based on proposals made by the epi and written comments from other members. The EPO also gave updates on its Central Fee Payment project and New Online User Engagement programme. It then reported on recent progress made on the Convergence of Practice Working Groups, which are currently focusing on "examination practice for computer-implemented inventions and artificial intelligence" and "claim drafting structure". Lastly, there was much interest in the ongoing preparations for the launch of the Unitary Patent and especially the transitional measures the EPO has planned to support its early uptake.