OJ EPO 2020, A7 - Notice from the European Patent Office dated 14 January 2020 concerning the legalisation of certified copies of documents issued by the European Patent Office

I. Background

On request, the European Patent Office (EPO) issues certified copies of European patent applications or European patent specifications, or of any other document from the files of European applications and patents (e.g. an extract from the European Patent Register), provided that the conditions for file inspection (Article 128(1) to (4) EPC) are fulfilled and that an administrative fee has been paid.

Certified copies of EPO documents may be requested in cross-border procedures taking place in jurisdictions outside Europe. In such cases, the certified copy usually needs to be legalised by means of an apostille.

Certified copies of European patent applications and of international applications filed with the EPO in its capacity as receiving Office are issued at the EPO's branch in The Hague. Certified copies of all other EPO documents, however, must be requested from the EPO headquarters in Munich.

In Germany and the Netherlands, the legalisation procedures for certified public documents are usually carried out under the Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention),[ 1 ] which currently has 118 contracting parties.

Under the Apostille Convention, the signature and seal on a public document are generally certified as authentic by a series of public authorities resulting in the ultimate authentication being readily recognised by an official of the state of destination where it can be given legal effect.

The EPO and the Dutch authorities have agreed to a simplified authentication process under the Apostille Convention that replaces the previous complex legalisation process with a single formality, limiting the costs and administrative burden for users.

II. The legalisation procedures for certified copies of documents issued by the European Patent Office

A. Procedures before the Dutch authorities

Under the simplified legalisation procedure that applies in the Netherlands, all certified copies of EPO documents, irrespective of whether they are issued at the site in Munich or The Hague, may be apostillised directly at any court in the Netherlands (contact details for the different courts can be found at rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie-en-contact/Organisatie/Rechtbanken) without the need for additional authentication by another Dutch authority.

A request to issue an apostille for a certified copy of an EPO document may be filed in writing with the Dutch courts by submitting the original copy together with the apostille request. Mandatory representation is not required, i.e. the apostille request can be filed without professional representation. The fee for an apostille is EUR 21 in the Netherlands.

Once the certified copy of an EPO document has been apostillised by the selected Dutch court, it can be filed directly and without further action with the embassy or consulate in the Netherlands of the state that originally requested its legalisation.

This procedure applies only to contracting states to the Apostille Convention. If the state requesting authentication of the certified EPO document is not bound by the Apostille Convention, the document has to be legalised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

B. Procedures before the German authorities

The procedures in Germany for the authentication of certified copies of EPO documents are unaffected by the simplified procedures applicable in the Netherlands. In Germany, the EPO has concluded a range of bilateral agreements with embassies and consulates offering to legalise certified EPO documents issued by the EPO in Munich, thereby helping applicants avoid the more complex legalisation procedures before the German public authorities. Certified documents issued by the EPO in The Hague, however, cannot be authenticated in Germany. Procedures and costs may vary depending on the state requesting the certified EPO document's authentication.

Any enquiries concerning this notice may be directed via email to International Legal Affairs at international_legal_affairs@epo.org.



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