Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office
The Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office (or, for short, the EPO Guidelines) are general instructions, for the examiners working at the European Patent Office (EPO) as well as for the parties interacting with the EPO, on the practice and procedure at the EPO in the various aspects of the prosecution of European patent applications and European patents. The Guidelines have been adopted, effective as at 1 June 1978, by the President of the EPO in accordance with Article 10(2)(a) EPC.
The current Guidelines, in force since June 20, 2012, include eight parts, relating respectively to the formalities examination (Part A), the search (Part B), the procedural aspects of substantive examination (Part C), the opposition and limitation/revocation procedures (Part D), general procedural matters (Part E), the European patent application (Part F), patentability (Part G), and the amendments and corrections (Part H).
According to several decisions of the Boards of Appeal of the EPO, the Guidelines are only general instructions intended to cover normal occurrences. An Examining Division can depart from them provided it acted in accordance with the European Patent Convention (EPC). It is normally desirable for Examining Divisions to act in accordance with the Guidelines, but these are not rules of law, so failure to follow a procedure set out in them is not in itself a substantial procedural violation. Nevertheless, the users of the European patent system may reasonably expect, in accordance with the established "principle of the protection of legitimate expectations" (also referred to as "principle of good faith"), that the Guidelines will be followed by the departments of first instance of the EPO.
- Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP, United States)
- Manual of Patent Office Practice (MOPOP, Canada)
References and notes
- Including the applicants, patentees, opponents, third parties, and their representatives.
- Guidelines, General Part, 1. Preliminary remarks, first paragraph.
- "Notice from the European Patent Office dated 2 May 2012 concerning revision of the Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office". EPO. 20 June 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- The Examining Divisions are responsible for the examination of European patent applications, Article 18(1) EPC.
- Legal Research Service for the Boards of Appeal (of the EPO), Department 3.0.30, Case Law of the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office, Fifth Edition, December 2006, VI.M.8. Legal status of the Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, page 476. See also Board of Appeal decision T 162/82 of 20 June 1987, Reasons 9 (OJ EPO 1987, 533).
- Decision T 1607/08 of 13 June 2012, Reasons 2 to 2.2.