1. Nowadays, most submissions in EPO proceedings under both the EPC and the PCT are made by electronic means. However, documents and other items (e.g. models) may also be delivered to the Office by hand or by postal services (Rule 2(1) EPC and Article 117(1)(f) EPC).
2. To safeguard its staff and premises, the Office has put in place a procedure for inspecting any such items. This includes X-ray scanning, but is not restricted to that. Only after the item has passed this security check is it forwarded to the competent department.
3. If, during the security procedure, any suspicion arises that the item in question might contain a substance or object that could pose a threat, as a general rule it will be returned to the sender, who will be informed of the Office's reasons for doing so. If the sender subsequently clarifies what the returned item contains, he may be allowed to resubmit it.
4. If the Office considers that the circumstances so require, instead of returning the item to the sender it will hand it over to the competent national authorities or destroy it. It will do this inter alia if it suspects that the item contains explosive, poisonous, toxic or otherwise dangerous substances (e.g. liquids, solids or gases) and/or objects (e.g. weapons or ammunition).
5. Therefore, parties considering submitting items by hand or by postal services – especially models for use as evidence in EPO proceedings (Article 117(1)(f) EPC, Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, November 2016, Part E-III, 1.11) – are advised as follows:
- do not send to the EPO, without prior notice, models comprising substances or objects that, on receipt, it might identify as dangerous;
- instead, inform the EPO in advance in writing that you intend to submit such a model, indicating the number of the application or patent concerned, and wait for its advice on how to proceed;
- do not submit models together with patent applications or any other documents filed to meet a time limit in proceedings before the EPO.
6. The EPO will entertain no claims for damages or compensation in respect of items which, for the reasons set out above, are returned to their senders, handed over to national authorities or destroyed.
Date retrieved: 19 May 2021