So what is XEPC?
In a nutshell, XEPC provides structured access to resources related to European (EPC) and international (PCT) patent law. All of these resources, as such, are available elsewhere. Most are available from EPO, others from WIPO. XEPC is unique in that it
- reveals the links between all of these resources, and
- allows all resources to be searched simultaneously, offering an ordered overview of the search results.
In the "browse box" on the right you can see the resources that XEPC references. XEPC comprises
- the full EPC Articles, Rules and Rules relating to fees, as well as
- the current PCT articles and implementing rules. In addition, you will find
- the Guidelines for Examination (June 2012 edition),
- recent Official Journal of the EPO articles (but see the caveat in the "Important Note" below)
- the contents of How to Get an European Patent II (International) (Note: now including the Chapter E recently published as HTML by EPO), and
- the PCT Applicant's Guide - International Phase (Note: chapters 5 through 11) and - National Phase.
- from the PCT Newsletter, Practical Advice articles.
- the complete Case Law of the Boards of Appeal (7th Edition, September 2013, HTML version) is added, as well as headnotes and links to the full decision for every cited decision in the Case Law book.
What's with the cross-references?
As a random example, lets look at Article 87 EPC about priority. The A. 87 EPC page contains the text for Article 87 (duh) as you know it. Below the text, you find a computer generated list of references. Now we get to the heart of this site. This list shows
- all the pages that the current page refers to, and
- all the pages which refer to the current page
So, whenever for example a section in the Guidelines refers to A. 87 EPC, you will see a reference to that section below the text of Article 87. Neat huh?
The lists are ordered by reference type, so you can quickly browse the most likely category.
Each item on the list has a title and a little X symbol ( X ) in front of it. If you click on the title, you will load a fresh page for the selected item, again with a reference list. However, if you click on the X eXpand icon, the page will be loaded inside the current page (at least, if you have a modern web browser). Use this "preview" mode to quickly see if the information is relevant or not.
So how do I use it?
You can use this site basically like you would use your favorite EPC / PCT reference book. With a specific question in mind, you start reading at the explanations near the article or rule of law that is the best starting point.
Starting from an article
For example, if you want to look up something about priority in the EPC, you can enter a 87 in the search box to jump straight to Article 87 EPC. (Or you can enter A. 87 EPC, case doesn't matter, dots are ignored and EPC is automatically assumed).
Starting from a keyword
If you are not sure of a good starting point you can use keyword searching you your advantage. XEPC allows you to search all resources (Articles, Rules, Guidelines, Caselaw, what-have-you) simultaneously.
A good search query is essential. Let's say we want to research how to restore priority in the PCT phase. Searching for priority gives way too many results. Searching for priority pct is only little better. We are getting somewhere with priority restoration. As you probably know, to get an overview of how it works, the PCT Applicant's Guide is usually more lucid than the Patent Cooperation Treaty articles and rules. So the references listed under Applicant's Guide - International Phase are now a good starting point for the research.
Give it a try
A few more examples
Some examples from my own recent practice:
- The Examiner wants me to re-cast the claims in two-part form, but I feel it is not appropriate in this case. Where do I find some arguments for not doing it? Well the following query will give you the relevant Guidelines sections: two-part form, better still two-part form unsuitable.
- In patent litigation someone tried to explain away completely contradictory claim language by appealing to "A mind willing to understand". What does the BoA actually mean by this? Find out: mind willing understand
- I keep forgetting when renewal fees are due for divisional applications. The relevant parts of the EPC and Guidelines are quickly found by searching for renewal divisional.
- Another evergreen is the "could-would" approach. How does EPO apply this according to the Guidelines and what is basis of this approach in case law? Search for could-would.
- The Official Journal is a good source for information on recent topics, such as videoconferencing or the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH)
Why is the formatting of items sometimes inconsistent or just plain wrong?
The basic idea is to import the HTML-published laws, guidelines, applicant's guides, etc with little or no automated reformatting, and certainly without manual reformatting (I have a life...). Since the documents come from a variety of websites with a variety of Content Management Systems behind it, things are not quite uniform.
A special case is formed by the OJ EPO documents. The EPO publishes them in a special (horrible, in my opinion) three-column PDF format with German text in the left column, English in the middle and French in the right column. The corresponding HTML entries you find on this site are automatically generated by converting the PDFs to plain text paragraphs with coordinates, and discarding all text paragraphs from the left and right columns. That is why the HTML text may have hyphenations in the middle of a line and footnotes appear between paragraphs. You really should check the original PDF from EPO (use the provided link) to make sure you get the right meaning.