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News & updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - continually updated information

Last updated: 7 April 2020

EPO President António Campinos

In view of the present situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the European Patent Office (EPO) is adopting the following preventive measures.

We understand this may cause some business disruption and apologise for any inconvenience caused. We are continuously monitoring the situation and will provide updates as necessary.

Coronavirus: message to our users

To all our users,

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus our Office has taken measures to ensure the health of our staff and continue to fulfil our mission to our users. Now more than ever, Europe needs a Patent Office that can support innovation in making our world safer, smarter and more sustainable - something which I talk about in the video above.

We are going to support you, our users, in getting through whatever trials you face in the patent system, and whatever the obstacles ahead. We will do so by continuing to search for new, easier ways to interact. We will adapt to your needs as they evolve. We will give you predictability, quality and timeliness, by making sure we deliver all the other goals in our strategic plan.

We understand that you may have questions or concerns about your patent applications or any of the other services we offer. Our staff are on hand to help and answer any queries you may have, via the contact form or by phone. You can also find regular updates on the ongoing measures we're taking, and any effects on our services, on this webpage. Its contents will be updated continuously to give you instant access to the latest information.

Above all, take care of yourselves, and I wish you and your loved ones good health

António Campinos

Oral Proceedings before Examining and Opposition Divisions

The EPO has decided to postpone until further notice all oral proceedings in examination and opposition proceedings scheduled until 30 April 2020 (previously until 17 April 2020) unless they have already been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing or in examination are converted into oral proceedings by videoconference with the applicant's consent (Article 6 of the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 1 April 2020 concerning oral proceedings by videoconference before examining divisions). A pilot will be started for opposition oral proceedings by videoconference.

Separate notifications about this postponement are continued to be sent to the parties as soon as possible. To guarantee that all parties are informed in due time, the EPO may exceptionally use additional means of communication (e.g. email). The parties are invited to check the respective files online via the European Patent Register where the notice of postponement until further notice of oral proceedings will be available shortly after its despatch.

Search, examining and opposition divisions will continue with their other activities, as well as holding oral proceedings which have been confirmed to take place by means of videoconferencing.

EPO customer and online services

During this exceptionally challenging time, maintaining high-quality services and an open dialogue with our users remains a top priority. Our customer services helpdesk remains fully operational and available to answer your questions on any aspect of the EPO and our operations.

For health and safety reasons, all our customer service agents have been fully equipped to work from home. You can therefore continue to expect the same level of service that underpins our commitment to quality for all users. Our dedicated key account managers are also reaching out to their customers to keep them up-to-date on any developments.

We encourage professional representatives and all of our users to make further use of our online services:

  • Activate the electronic Mailbox service to receive communications from the EPO online.
  • Access your Mailbox with a secure smart card connection. We have upped our capacity in preparation for an increase in requests for smart card readers.
  • When requesting a smart card, if you are not a professional representative before the EPO or an otherwise authorised employee and there is no authorised person available to countersign your request, please attach a copy of your ID card, passport or driving licence.
  • Use our new online filing (CMS) and web-form filing instead of fax for filing all procedures with the exception of opposition, revocation, limitation and appeal proceedings.
  • Consult the European patent register to follow-up on public patent granting communications issued by the EPO.
  • Use our online patent search tool Espacenet.

Feel free to contact us by email at support@epo.org, via the website contact form or by telephone. (Customer services are available by phone from Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 18:00 CET.)

Events

We are postponing all EPO organised events in March, April and May. Organisers will contact participants on an individual basis and, where possible, inform them of the new dates.

The 2020 edition of the European Inventor Award, planned to be held in Monaco on 17-18 June, has also been postponed. The event will take place in Monaco in June 2021.

Oral Proceedings before the Boards of Appeal

Oral proceedings will not be held in the premises of the Boards of Appeal until 30 April 2020. Concerned parties will be contacted accordingly with a communication.

Remedies in case of non-observance of time limits

In view of the disruptions to public life caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the EPO has taken measures to safeguard users’ rights. All time limits expiring on or after 15 March 2020 are thus extended until 17 April 2020. As regards time limits expiring before 15 March 2020, the EPO has facilitated the use of legal remedies for users located in areas directly affected by disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The extensions and remedies apply to parties and representatives in proceedings under the EPC and the PCT. The following notice provides all relevant information and will be published in the EPO’s March Official Journal. If the disruption should continue after 17 April 2020, the EPO may publish another notice informing users about further extensions and remedies in respect of time limits.

The extension of time limits also applies to periods for paying fees, including renewal fees. The following notice contains information about the amounts due following the general fee increase on 1 April 2020. This notice will be published in the April edition of the EPO’s Official Journal.

EQE

EQE 16-19 March 2020 - CANCELLED

The Supervisory Board of the European qualifying examination has decided to cancel the EQE (pre-examination and main examination papers). The Supervisory Board is currently assessing whether the examination can be rescheduled to a later date in 2020. This may however take some time due to the complexity of the logistics.

External partners

We are requesting external partners to abstain from visiting the EPO if they have recently visited a high risk area.

For oral proceedings, please see the relevant section above.

Staff working from home

Complying with the new Austrian regulations the staff of the EPO’s Vienna office have been instructed to work from home. Staff at all other sites are being provided the means to work from home and many are doing so. The Office fully remains at the service of users and we will ensure the full functioning of our technical infrastructure. Further updates may follow.

List of high-risk areas

  • Austria
  • Egypt
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • In Republic of Korea: Daegue and the province of Gyeongsangbuk-do (North-Gyeongsang)
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • United States of America

Please note that the definition of areas affected by the spread of the Coronavirus may be subject to change.