The EPO has announced that it will start phasing in fully electronic communications -- i.e. delivered electronically to the applicant or representative without any follow-up paper copies -- for the following communications:
- the extended European search report pursuant to Rule 62 EPC - i.e. the European or partial European search report (Article 92 and Rules 61 and 63 EPC) plus the European search opinion - or the declaration of no search (Rule 63 EPC)
- the international search report (Article 18 PCT), together with the written opinion under Rule 43bis PCT
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In the initial phase, professional representatives holding an EPO smart card and who have activated their electronic mailbox may inform the EPO that they wish to take part in the start-up phase by mailing email@example.com. A second notice from the EPO issued today gives more details on this (and other EPO electronic services).
Reading the two notices together the IPKat admits to being slightly confused on one point. The service was launched on December 15 in a test phase, and it appears there is a pilot group of users from both private practice and industry who have access right away. While the notices suggest that other users may ask to join the test phase, it appears that they will only be admitted as of the first quarter of 2012, i.e. the launch yesterday was a closed launch. If the IPKat has read this wrong and the service is available immediately to all professional representatives who request it, perhaps someone from the EPO can clarify this in a comment.
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British Telecom telex machine
Those niggles aside, the IPKat welcomes this development. The EPO has consistently been ahead of the curve in its electronic offerings, and the software it offers users is usually pretty robust and well thought out. Increasing the options for users to send and receive communications is all good, provided that they are not prematurely forced to abandon their preferred technology (a good model to follow here is the EPO finally switching off its dusty telex machine on September 1, 2004 when this technology had all but vanished from daily life).