The new European Patent Office (EPO) guidelines have put an end to the unnecessary restrictions and costs for patent applications caused by overzealous examiners in recent years. These guidelines will pull these overzealous examiners back into line and simplify the patenting process as a result, which is great news for our clients.
Misinterpretation of guidelines
The Guidelines are the guidelines that examiners must adhere to when evaluating and approving or rejecting patent applications. The unnecessary costs and hassle were caused by many EPO examiners misinterpreting a particular section (F-IV-4.3) of the Guidelines. They increasingly indicated that often big chunks of the description contained in the application had to be scrapped because they were not explicitly mentioned in the claims to be granted. The scrapping of these parts could have a negative impact on the patent during opposition and legal proceedings. Moreover, the unnecessary changes to the description led to additional costs.
Improvements to the patent system
For some years now, I have been a member of the EPO Standing Advisory Committee (SACEPO) on behalf of the International Federation of Patent Attorneys FICPI. This committee of patent attorneys and other users of the patent system acts as a sounding board for the EPO and therefore takes part in discussions at the highest level about improvements to the European patent system. In this role, I was committed to making the widely contested misinterpretation of the Guidelines impossible.
Simpler, better and cheaper process
It was successful. The new Guidelines show that the interpretation of the overzealous examiners was wrong. This makes it much easier to steer any overzealous examiners in the right direction. As a result, fewer patents will be restricted unnecessarily. This makes the process simpler, better and cheaper.
Talk Innovation podcast
I discuss the detailed consequences of this and other parts of the new Guidelines as a moderator in an EPO podcast published in the Talk Innovation series. Together with a patent attorney from a Danish patent office and a patent attorney from BASF in Germany, we take an in-depth look at this issue as well as at other upcoming changes in the field of patents. You can listen to the podcast with Jordi Kox about the new Guidelines here: