Thursday, 12 August 2010
As if things weren't complicated enough already, what with all the rule changes this year and the looming 1 October deadline for divisional applications, the EPO will be making things a little bit more difficult for applicants as from 1 January 2011. Changes to Rule 141 and a new Rule 70b EPC, announced in the EPO Official Journal late last year (here) will then be coming into force. These will require applicants to provide the results of any search that has been carried out on an application from which an EP application claims priority. Although this will add only a small further burden on the applicant or his attorney, this is in the IPKat's view another sign that the EPO is seeking to put yet further responsibility on to the applicant rather than taking the opportunity to make the system simpler and more efficient.
Fortunately, at least one patent office is taking this as an opportunity to be a little bit more helpful to applicants for European patents. In response to a recent notice from the EPO, the UK IPO has announced that they plan to automatically transfer to the EPO the results of any search carried out by them, relieving the applicant of the need to do this themselves. The IPKat would like to know if any of his readers outside the UK are aware of any other similar systems being planned or put in place.
The IPKat thinks that, in an age of increasingly interconnected worldwide computer systems, putting a new burden on the applicant to make sure that results from one patent office are provided to another is a backward step and does nothing to help the system become simpler and more efficient, which should surely be one of the main aims of the EPO (although it appears from recent experience not to be). What the EPO and other offices (including India: see here for an example of what these kinds of requirements can end up resulting in; and don't forget the threat of 'inequitable conduct' in the US for not meeting similar requirements) should be doing instead is working behind the scenes to ensure that systems are in place to allow different offices to know what each other is doing, and not making the files of patent attorneys and patent offices over the world even more cluttered with extraneous communications about fact finding and checking just to make sure that silly little formal requirements are met (comments are to be expected regarding the word 'silly'; please go ahead). The IPKat looks forward to the day when the EPO announces that Rule 141 is to be abolished because they are able access all other patent office searches themselves, though he suspects that the rule, and equivalent rules in other countries, will be with us for some time to come.