Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Farewell Handwritten Amendments at the EPO

As of January 1, 2014, the EPO does no longer accept submissions including handwritten amendments on replacement sheets of the application documents. Under Rule 86 EPC this also applies to amendments in patent specification documents in opposition proceedings.

This may be of particular relevance if the patentee wishes to submit new requests in the course of oral proceedings. According to the FAQ page:

Documents containing handwritten amendments may be used as a basis for discussion during oral proceedings until agreement is reached on the final text of the patent; a final decision granting a patent or maintaining it in amended form may only be taken on the basis of a document which is not formally deficient.

In order to assist the parties in such circumstances, the Office provides technical facilities that will allow compliance with the formal requirements while ensuring a smooth conduct of the oral proceedings at the same time.
The author of this note has always appreciated the craftsmanship involved in preparing artful collages of paper snippets and spiced op with handwritten notes and the smell of glue in the attorney's rooms. The FAQ page further explains how the new and sterile reality will look like:

Parties using their own laptops or other electronic devices to prepare amendments may rely on the EPO’s public Wireless Network, which is widely available in public areas, or printers available in the EPO. 
For parties who do not use their own electronic equipment, the EPO provides for PCs and printers in the attorney rooms as well as in many rooms used for oral proceedings. Additionally each attorney’s room is equipped with at least two PCs and one local printer. The local printer can be either used via the EPO PC or an external laptop which can be connected via USB cable to the local printer allowing direct use. 
Additionally EPO LAN printers allow for printing PDF documents directly from a standard USB stick (FAT32 filesystem). It is sufficient to stick a USB stick into the USB port of the printer on the left-hand side of the front panel. Then using the touchscreen control panel, select “Print from USB” and choose a PDF document to be printed.
State-of-the-art text editing software (such as MS Word, OpenOffice, etc.) provides for a possibility to directly save any document as a PDF file, which then can be stored on a USB stick and printed from the LAN printers.


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