Improved availability of citations originating from the examination phase of EP applications

Citation data is an important source of information for patent searchers. It allows them to find publications that are closely related to patent documents they are interested in. Citation data includes both citations in search reports as well as those occurring in other stages of the application procedure and in the post-grant stage, e.g. citations originating from an opposition procedure.

Until recently, citation data originating from the examination procedure of EP applications was linked in the relevant citation database solely to B1 publications. For this reason, in many of the EPO's patent information tools and services, citation information from the examination phase was only available in cases where the EP application had led to a patent. So far, this data has been available only via the online file inspection (section "All documents") in the European Patent Register.

Recognising the demand from users for this important information to be made available as soon as possible, the EPO has adapted its internal data workflows so that citations occurring during the examination stage for EP applications published as of May 2021 will be available in the EPO's patent information products and services, irrespective of whether or not the EP application leads to a patent. These citations are now public and in the data associated with A1/A2/A4 document kind codes. Users can access this data in the EPO patent information products such as Espacenet, Global Patent Index, PATSTAT, the European Patent Register (sections "Citations" and "All documents"), Open Patent Services as well as the EPO worldwide bibliographic database (DOCDB).

A 30-day delay has been introduced between the loading of these citations to the citation database and their availability to the public. This delay, which can be extended at the request of the applicant or examiner, allows time for the necessary procedural steps to be completed.

For the time being, no changes are foreseen for citations connected to publications prior to May 2021. They will continue to be available in the EPO's patent information products and services only in cases where the EP application led to a patent.

If you are interested in the coverage of citations at the EPO, have a look at the following tables:

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