GL M CHANGES

PART A
Due to change in Belgian patent legislation, as a rule the filing of European patent applications with the Belgian Intellectual Property Office is no longer possible.
New EPO Form 1020 for paper filings of European patent applications with a competent national authority (Art. 75(1)(b))
Validation agreements with Tunisia and Cambodia entered into force on 1 December 2017 and 1 March 2018, respectively.
If issuance of a sample of biological material to an expert only has been requested, a sample is issued only to an independent expert nominated by the requester (Rules 32 and 33 as amended).
According to the revised Arrangements for deposit accounts (ADA) entering into force on 1 December 2017, debit orders for European patent applications must be filed in an electronically processable format (XML) via one of the accepted methods of electronic filing.
According to the revised Arrangements for the automatic debiting procedure (AAD), an automatic debit order must be filed in an electronically processable format (XML), using an accepted method of electronic filing. An automatic debit order can be revoked via Online Fee Payment in Online services only.
Credit card became a new method of payment on 1 December 2017.
According to the amendment to Rule 51(1) entering into force on 1 April 2018, the renewal fee for the third year may be validly paid six months before the due date.
As from 1 April 2018, there is no reduction in supplementary European search fee payable on entry into the European phase any more, where the international search report has been drawn up by a non-European ISA.
According to the amendment to Art. 14(2) RFees entering into force on 1 April 2018, the examination fee payable on entry into the European phase is reduced by 75% if the EPO has drawn up the international preliminary examination report.
The insignificant amount (Art. 12 RFees) has been raised from EUR 10 to EUR 15.
PART B
All search reports established in the EPO will be automatically supplemented with an annex entitled “information on Search strategy”
PART C
Earlier searches in respect of utility models are to be submitted in reply to an invitation under Rule 141(3)
PART D
Clarifications about the procedure in case of multiple oppositions where one opposition is inadmissible and/or withdrawn and incorporation of teachings from T 9/00 and T 774/05
PART E
Clarified practice about calculation of time limits
The automatic debiting procedure may be used for effecting payment of the fees falling due on filing the request for early processing
Reduced appeal fee is payable for appeals filed on or after 1 April 2018 by natural persons and entities referred to in Rule 6(4) and (5),
PART F
New section clarifying practice for assessing inventions realised in a distributed computing environment
Clarified practice regarding the use of general statements, "spirit of invention”, claim-like clauses
New sections explaining how relative terms need to be construed and when an objection of clarity may be raised
New sections explaining how the term “about” and similar terms need to be construed and when an objection of clarity may be raised
Reorganized section so to indicate how optional features need to be construed and when an objection of clarity may be raised
Clarified practice that if a technical feature of a claimed plant or animal might be the result of either a technical intervention or of an essentially biological process, a disclaimer is necessary to delimit the claimed subject matter to the technically produced product
Clarifications regarding interpretation of claims comprising expressions like "Apparatus for ...", "Method for ...
New section clarifying interpretation of claims defined by reference to (use with) another entity
Clarified how the terms “comprising”, “consisting of” and “consisting essentially of” are construed in a claim
New introductory section explaining why the requirement of non-unity is present in the EPC and the general principles.
New sections explaining the substantive assessment of unity of invention
Examples are added to illustrate the interpretation of the requirements of Rule 44(1) in particular situations. Sections are reorganised.
New and amended sections defining non-unity a priori and a posteriori
New sections explaining the procedure in case of lack of unity during search
PART G
The section has been redrafted to clarify the assessment of claims comprising mathematical methods
New section about the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning were inserted in order to better define the criteria for their patentability
New section about the assessment of claims directed to methods of simulation, design or modelling
New section introduced to clarify the assessment of claims comprising schemes, rules methods for performing mental acts
New section introduced to clarify the assessment of claims comprising schemes, rules methods for playing games
New section introduced to clarify the assessment of claims comprising schemes, rules methods for doing business
Redrafted section to clarify practice for assessment of claims to programs for computers
New section providing examples of further technical effects produced by a computer program
New section about information modelling, activity of programming and programming languages
Section is redrafted to incorporate case law about the assessment of claims comprising features related to data retrieval, formats and structures (renumbered from G‑II, 3.7.2 to G‑II, 3.6.3)
Clarified practice that if a technical feature of a claimed plant or animal might be the result of either a technical intervention or of an essentially biological process, a disclaimer is necessary to delimit the claimed subject matter to the technically produced product
PART H
Clarified practice regarding replacement or removal of features from a claim (“essentiality test”)
Amended in view of G 1/16
 
General Part
HTML and PDF versions of the Guidelines comprise an alphabetical keyword index, an index dedicated to computer-implemented inventions and a list of amended sections
PART A
Clarification that the EPO may be open on national holidays observed in the location of a filing office.
Clarification that copy of previously filed application must be certified by the authority with which that application was filed.
Clarification which date of filing is accorded to an application for which deficiencies with respect to Rule 40 have been remedied.
Clarification that priority documents may not be filed using the EPO web-form filing service.
Addition that the amount of the filing fee will depend on the method and format used for filing the European patent application or its translation, if applicable.
Clarification that a divisional application may be filed on the date on which the earlier application is withdrawn.
Clarification that correction under Art. 14(2) applies similarly to translations filed for Euro-PCT applications upon entry into the European phase.
Clarification that a professional representative needs to file an authorisation under specific circumstances only.
Clarification that the current methods of refund apply also to fees paid by credit card.
Clarification that a certified copy of a European patent application is issued only on written request.
PART B
 
In the entire part Part B, the term “examiner” has been replaced by “search division” or “member of the search division”;
PART C
Clarified that an application not fulfilling the requirements of Art. 82 may be refused only if the right to be heard has been respected
Clarified the practice for issuing summons to oral proceedings as first action
Clarified that to refuse after examination of the applicant’s reply to a communication of the division, is only one of the possibility for the examining division
Clarified that the examining division can delete redundant claims from the application in preparation of a Rule 71(3) communication without consulting the applicant
Moved text about request of further processing when the time limit under Rule 71(3) is not met from section C‑V, 8 to section C‑V, 3
Clarified which types of replies to a Rule 71(3) communication are considered as amendment requests
The practice followed when in reply to a Rule 71(3) communication the applicant requests the grant to be based on a higher ranking request, which the examining division considers not admissible and/or not allowable, has been moved from section C‑V, 4.9 to new section C‑V, 4.7.1.1
Section rewritten focusing only on the practice in case the applicant replies to a Rule 71(3) communication explicitly disapproving the proposed text without indicating an alternative text
Section reordered to improve readability
PART D
Clarifications on the administrative structure for opposition divisions
An extension of the time limit to file observations concerning the oppositions communicated earlier and to file amendments will only be granted to the proprietor in exceptional cases on the basis of a duly substantiated request
Clarification about requests to exclude from file inspection a non-patent literature document
Clarification that the decision of an opposition division rejecting all oppositions as inadmissible is not an “intermediate decision"
Clarification regarding the assessment of sufficiency of disclosure
An interlocutory decision of the opposition division qualifies as a grant decision in the sense of G 1/10 regarding requests for corrections under Rule 140
The basis for revoking the patent if the proprietor states that he no longer approves the text in which the patent was granted and does not submit an amended text is Art. 101 (T 203/14 and T 2405/12)
Clarification regarding apportionment of costs
The examining division is competent to decide on requests for limitation and revocation
PART E
Clarified that the communications other than the ones listed are not subject to formal notification
Clarified that the consent of the addressee is needed for notification by means of electronic communication
Clarification that a request to hold oral proceedings at a particular EPO site is not admissible
Clarification that an examining division may also decide to enlarge the division if complex legal issues arise
Clarification that a reasoning is given when citing new documents in the summons to oral proceedings and that oral proceedings may be set for any working day on which the EPO is open at the relevant site
Clarification regarding definition of prima facie relevance for assessment of facts or evidence introduced at a late stage
Clarified practice regarding discussion of facts and the legal position during oral proceedings
Clarification regarding the relevance of the minutes of oral proceedings for assessing if right to be heard has been respected
Clarification that it is always advisable to enlarge the division in case of hearings for the purpose of taking evidence
Clarification regarding the use of another official language in oral proceedings
Clarification regarding the language used by employees of the EPO in oral proceedings
Clarification about when the next office action will be issued in case of third-party observations under Art. 115 when a reply from the applicant to a communication is outstanding
Clarification that a translation, whether filed on entry into the European phase under Art. 153(4) EPC or in the international phase under Rule 12.3 or 12.4 PCT, may always be brought in conformity with the application as filed
New section created regarding refusal to admit amendments under Rule 137(3)
Clarification regarding transfer of the European patent application
PART F
 
In the entire part Part F, the term “examiner” has been replaced by “search division”, “examining division” or “division”, as appropriate
Clarification regarding units recognised in international practice and complying with Rule 49(10)
Clarifying practice for assessment of sufficiency of disclosure
Reference to T 1811/13 is added
Clarifications regarding the assessment of Rule 43(2) and Art. 82
Clarifications regarding determination of the invention first mentioned in the claims
Clarifications regarding the assessment of non-unity for dependent claims
PART G
Clarified practice related to surgery, therapy and diagnostic methods
Addition of an example which relates to essentially biological processes and products thereof and a second example where the subject matter is not excluded from patentability under Art. 53(b)
Clarification of practice related to double patenting
Clarification of conditions to be fulfilled for a tacit agreement on secrecy to be present
Clarified practice related to assessing disclosure of a prior art document comprising errors
Clarification regarding applying the problem-solution approach starting from different prior art documents
PART H
Clarification regarding indication of amendments and their basis under Rule 137(4)
Section deleted since all application documents are electronically available; the following sections renumbered
Clarification about indication of basis for amendments in the opposition proceedings
Clarified by setting out the principles of G 2/10
If the claims are amended in the course of opposition proceedings, a correction of the claims does not constitute a correction under Rule 140 even if it aims at the removal of an obvious mistake in the claims as granted
Clarification regarding correction of description, claims and drawings
Clarification regarding correction of errors in decisions and related application and patent documents
Clarification regarding allowability of correction of bibliographic data
Correction of formatting/editing errors have no influence on the start of the opposition period
Even during opposition proceedings, the examining division is competent for correcting errors in its decision to grant, in particular errors in the decision's reasoning, in bibliographic data or formatting/editing errors
 
 
Throughout the Guidelines, the term “should” have been replaced by “must” or the verb in present tense, as appropriate
General Part
PART A
PART B
PART C
PART D
PART E
PART F
PART G
PART H
 

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EPC Articles

EPC Implementing Rules

EPC Rules relating to Fees

EPO Guidelines - A Formalities Examination

EPO Guidelines - B Search

EPO Guidelines - C Procedureal Aspects of Substantive Examination

EPO Guidelines - D Opposition and Limitation/Revocation Procedures