Terms and conditions for EPO online services electronic infrastructure
Version 1.0 (October 2022)
The EPO operates electronic infrastructure - consisting of, as the case may be, Services, Software and User Authentication Means - that the EPO has set up for you to permit secure communication between you and the EPO.
Through this electronic infrastructure you can use Services which enable you, among other things, to communicate with the EPO, manage your personal data and send it for identification or authentication purposes to third parties and participate in EPO Procedures, take part in EPO E-learning Activities and obtain EPO Information Products and such other online activities as may be facilitated by the EPO from time to time.
Your eligibility to use any Service provided through the EPO online services electronic infrastructure may depend on the role you take in your interaction with the EPO.
In order to access and use the Service concerned you are required to register with the EPO to create a User Account and accept applicability of these terms. Even where you already involve yourself with the EPO through electronic means, including using an account, user name/password and/or smartcard, the EPO may require you to register (renew your registration) and accept applicability of these terms.
Depending on the Service you request and (where applicable) your personal preference, you confirm your patent applications, payments and other actions via your smartcard, mobile app or alternative authentication means as may be supported by the EPO from time to time. The use of your smartcard or other User Authentication Means is also governed by these terms.
Introduction of newer technologies for the operation of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure may technically require or otherwise prompt the EPO to determine that Users for their continued use of Services or parts thereof must make use of certain User Authentication Means method from a certain moment onwards. This may be the case when the User would accept a newer type of User Authentication Means in relation to the relevant Service or part thereof while the User's entitlement to use the Smart Card as such is unaffected.
Where your role in any Service (e.g. within any of the EPO Procedures available online) allows you to determine that another person (who must be an eligible User) obtains access to a Service or part of a Service and performs particular tasks or actions within a Service, you are and remain responsible for granting such access and allowing the other User to act in that capacity within that Service, as well as monitoring the validity of another User's entitlement to act in that capacity and, if no longer applicable, timely take the relevant step(s) for its withdrawal.
These terms apply regardless of the communication channel you use to interact with the EPO. The terms are applicable to Services provided via the Website, but also to Services provided through other communication channels as may be supported by the EPO from time to time, such as mobile apps or similar functionalities.
These terms are also applicable to Software made available for download by the EPO for use in EPO Procedures, whether made available via the Website or via other (online or offline) distribution channels. Typically, the EPO makes Software available to enable you to comply with the prescribed technical standard for the electronic filing of patent applications and subsequent documents according to the relevant decisions and notices of the President of the EPO.
These terms contain a glossary and you should reference it to ensure you fully understand the terms used.
SECTION A. GENERAL PROVISIONS
Article 1. Applicability
1.1 These terms are applicable to the use of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure - consisting of, as the case may be, Services, Software and User Authentication Means - that the EPO has set up to access any service thus offered and permit secure communication between you and the EPO.
1.2 The Website Terms are incorporated into these terms and conditions by reference. In accepting these terms and conditions, you also indicate that you have read and accept the Website Terms. Should these terms and conditions conflict with the Website Terms, then these terms take precedence.
1.3 The EPO may provide, from time to time, explanatory information and instructions related to any part of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure, which may take the form of specific user manuals or be expressed in any other document or part of the Website. All such information is provided for reference purposes only. In the event of a conflict or discrepancy between such information and these terms and conditions, these terms take precedent.
1.4 These terms and conditions are not intended to impair any rights and obligations you might have under relevant Patent Law. Should these terms nevertheless conflict with Patent Law, then Patent Law takes precedent.
Article 2. Registration and access
2.1 For each registration, you must provide in the designated electronic enrolment environment correct and complete details to enable the EPO to assess your request and determine your eligibility to a User Account respectively your eligibility for access and use of the Service concerned.
2.2 The EPO will process your request and confirm its approval by issuing a User Account and / or other User Authentication Means at its discretion to provide access to Services.
2.3 Where over time data that you had provided to the EPO changes, you must update them to ensure that your personal information available to the EPO are accurate and complete. The EPO may provide specific instructions, including the online environment that you should use, to update your data.
2.4 Your eligibility to use any Service provided through the EPO online services electronic infrastructure may depend on your role and other parameters in your interaction with the EPO, e.g:
- Your qualification as European professional representative, Legal practitioner under Art 134(8) or other kind of patent attorney;
- Your residence, registered seat, or principal place of business.
2.5 The EPO may require you to submit additional data, including evidence thereof, to allow assessment of your entitlement in a certain role to access and use a particular Service or any part of a Service. The EPO reserves the right to deactivate your authorisation as a registered User upon reasonable prior notice if you do not comply with the foregoing by providing the requested additional information or cooperate with the identification process in a timely manner. Instead, if feasible, the EPO may reduce your authorisation to the level of access that can be granted based on the then available information respectively the verification that the EPO was able to do.
2.6 The EPO has an interest in maintaining an up-to-date inventory of the EPO's registered User base. The EPO will verify from time to time whether Users are in fact utilising the EPO online services electronic infrastructure. This verification may be focussed on your use of certain parts, e.g. accessing of the User Account or using the smartcard issued by the EPO. The EPO may require you to undertake a specific action in order to allow the EPO to establish your continued interest in maintaining the User Account or the smartcard and you are required to follow up to that request within the time period as indicated in such request. The EPO reserves the right to deactivate your authorisation as a registered User upon reasonable prior notice if you do not access the User Account or do not use the smartcard or the relevant Service for a prolonged period of time and you do not confirm interest in retaining your registration following notification in a timely manner.
Article 3. Changes to the EPO online services electronic infrastructure
3.1 Subject to applicable legal provisions, specifically relevant Patent Law, the EPO reserves the right to modify, restrict or discontinue, entirely or in part, at any time and without prior notice, the EPO online services electronic infrastructure. In all such cases, the EPO will take account of your legitimate interests. Information about the EPO online services electronic infrastructure, including about relevant changes, will be announced in a dedicated section of the Website or in the Official Journal of the EPO. We recommend that you consult these sources regularly.
4.1 If you use Services, you must do so securely. This means you should adhere to the user safety rules contained in Article 5 and any additional explanatory information and instructions related to any part of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure, as may be provided by the EPO from time to time.
4.2 You may not, and may not cause or permit others using your account, to: (a) use Services, Software and User Authentication Means to deliberately corrupt, invalidate, deface, damage, render inaccessible or otherwise misuse Services or Software, in particular by uploading or attaching files which are infected with viruses or corrupted or any similar software or programs capable of impairing the operation of another User's computer; (b) use your access rights to cause damage or injury to any person or property or otherwise violate applicable laws, ordinances or regulations; or (c) perform or disclose any performance or vulnerability testing of any part of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure without the EPO's prior written approval.
4.3 Should you receive access to any information which is not addressed to you or the general public, such as documents which are confidential or otherwise non-public and erroneously made available to you, you must immediately inform the EPO. You must also keep any information or documents which were erroneously made available to you confidential, not distribute any such information or documents further, and destroy any physical or digital copies thereof.
Article 5. User safety rules
5.1 It is your responsibility as a registered User to keep your account details, password and other security codes confidential in order to prevent any unauthorised access to your EPO account. You must take all steps necessary to secure your password and other security codes and keep them confidential. You are responsible for all activities performed under your EPO account. The EPO will never ask you to share your password or other private security code with the EPO or a third party.
5.2 You should provide adequate security for the equipment that you use to access and use the Services. Make sure that the software installed on your equipment, such as computer, tablet and / or smartphone, is provided with current (security) updates, do not install illegal software, secure access to the equipment you use for arranging your EPO affairs with an access code and always log out when you have finished arranging your EPO affairs.
5.3 You should check messages received from the EPO as soon as possible for any actions or transactions for which you have not given permission. If several people within your organisation have access to a shared functionality (e.g. Mailbox), it is your responsibility to make appropriate arrangements to ensure that alerts and notifications are not overlooked and procedural acts are performed in time.
5.4 In case of incidents (e.g. you notice or suspect that your account was used without authorisation or you notice that you have access to information not meant for you), you should and must inform the EPO without delay by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. In case you have access to information not meant for you, you are obliged to treat such information in strictest confidentiality (save for the aforementioned notification to the EPO).
5.5 Your role in any Service (e.g. within any of the EPO Procedures available online) may allow you to determine that another User obtains access to a Service or part of a Service and performs particular tasks or actions within a Service. In such case, you are and remain responsible for granting such access and allowing the other User to act in that capacity within that Service, as well to monitor the validity of another User's entitlement to act in that capacity and, if no longer applicable, timely take the relevant step(s) for its withdrawal.
Article 6. Costs
6.1 The use of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure as such is free of charge, unless specified otherwise. The user bears the costs for User's own devices and, if applicable, any costs owed to third parties that provide apps or other services to the User and which the User elects to use when e.g. accessing the EPO online services electronic infrastructure.
Article 7. Intellectual property rights
7.1 The websites and any content in the EPO online services electronic infrastructure, including texts, photos, illustrations, graphic material, (trade) names, logos, goods and service marks, as well as the context of such components e.g. in patent and non-patent literature excerpts, are owned or licensed by the EPO and are protected by database law, copyright, trademark law and / or any other intellectual property right as applicable. No (intellectual) property or usage rights are transferred to (legal) persons who gain access to the EPO online services electronic infrastructure. Unless expressly specified otherwise in the Website Terms, you are not permitted to reproduce, forward, distribute, or make available to third parties for remuneration, the content of the EPO online services electronic infrastructures without the prior express written consent of the EPO.
Article 8. Changes to terms
8.1 The EPO reserves the right to change these general terms and conditions. You will be notified in writing of any changes and such changes will be considered to have been accepted if you do not object in writing within six weeks after having received such notification. The EPO will draw this to your attention when notifying you of any changes. Objections will be considered as having been lodged in time if dispatched within the six-week period.
Article 9. Remedies
9.1 Services, Software and User Authentication Means are made available to you "as is". While the EPO aims to make the EPO online services electronic infrastructure as robust and secure as reasonably possible, you acknowledge and accept that the EPO does not warrant that Services, Software and User Authentication Means will operate error-free or uninterrupted, that the EPO will be able to correct all errors in a timely manner, or that the EPO online services electronic infrastructure will meet your requirements or expectations.
9.2 The EPO recommends, where possible, to perform procedural acts, such as filing of documents and making payments, well before the expiry of the relevant period and not waiting until the last moment.
9.3 The EPO disclaims all liability for any damages arising out of or in connection with the use of Services, Software and User Authentication Means to the maximum extent permitted under applicable law. For any error, deficiency or interruption of Services, Software and User Authentication Means, your exclusive remedy and the EPO's entire liability shall be the remedies provided by the EPO under relevant Patent Law.
9.4 To enable the EPO to remedy, where so applicable, any event that would be capable of remedying under the applicable Patent Law, you must notify the EPO of the event as soon as possible after its occurrence and in any case when you became aware of it and you established the need for such remedying action. The periods for requesting remedies as set out in the Patent Law are unaffected by this provision.
Article 10. Data protection
10.1 The EPO may collect and further process personal data about you in connection to your registration, access and use of Services. Such personal information is collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes only, including for identifying you and processing your registration, for evaluating you for suitability as an authorised User, to generate a digital certificate and smartcard and for managing your use of Services, Software and User Authentication Means. Personal data is not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes.
10.2 For complete information on how the EPO may use your personal data, please consult the EPO's Data Protection Rules / the Data Processing Statement concerned as available on the Website.
Article 11. Severability
11.1 If, for any reason, a provision of these general terms and conditions is held to be invalid, illegal or otherwise unenforceable, this will not affect the remaining provisions. The terms are then to be interpreted to give effect as far as possible to their original object and purpose and as if they did not include the unenforceable provision.
Article 12. Applicable law
12.1 These general terms and conditions shall be governed by German substantive law. The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods shall not apply.
Article 13. Dispute resolution
13.1 If a dispute arises out of or in connection with these general terms and conditions, the parties shall undertake in good faith to use all reasonable endeavours to settle the dispute by negotiation. Should this fail, any such dispute shall be finally settled by binding arbitration with one single arbitrator in accordance with the provisions of the German Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO). The venue for arbitration shall be Munich, Germany.
13.2 Notwithstanding the aforementioned, if the EPO waives its immunity from national jurisdiction, the courts of Munich shall have jurisdiction for any such dispute.
13.3 These general terms and conditions shall be interpreted in such a way that the rights of the EPO under the EPC, including the Protocol on Privileges and Immunities of the EPO, signed in Munich on 5 October 1973, are in all cases preserved.
13.4 The aforementioned dispute resolution provisions are without prejudice to any remedies available under relevant Patent Law.
SECTION B. SOFTWARE
This Section B is applicable, in addition to Section A General Provisions, whenever the EPO makes available Software for use in EPO Procedures. For clarity, Software means all software made available by the EPO for download as per the glossary.
Article 14. License
14.1 The EPO is prepared to grant you, subject to the general terms and conditions set out in this Section B, a revocable, non-exclusive, non-transferrable right to use the Software for an unlimited period for your own needs only. All other rights in the use of the Software shall remain with the EPO and / or the manufacturer of the Software. The intellectual property rights with regard to the Software rest with the EPO and / or its licensor(s).
14.2 By accepting these terms, you signify that you have read and unreservedly accept these terms and that a license agreement is concluded between you and the EPO, under the general terms and conditions set out in this Section B, each time you download Software from the Website or install Software otherwise made available by the EPO on your computer network.
14.3 If the EPO releases a subsequent version of the Software with predominantly new or changed functionalities, whether or not released under a different name, the provisions of this Section B will also apply to that new version. Within six months of the release of a new version of the Software, you shall cease using the previous version and delete or otherwise destroy the previous version of the Software in accordance with Article 15.4.
Article 15. Term; suspension and termination of services
15.1 Unless specified otherwise, the license is provided for an unlimited period.
15.2 The EPO may terminate the license in case of a serious violation of these terms, or of a violation of applicable legal provisions. If the EPO is informed or suspects that such a violation has occurred, it will take immediate measures to ensure that this violation and any illegal acts are discontinued. This might, for instance, be the case where use of the account by non-qualified or non-authorised third parties circumvents requirements concerning professional representation within the meaning of Article 134 EPC; constitutes a data breach; or otherwise poses a serious security risk. In this case, the EPO will investigate the relevant facts and, where appropriate, invite the account holder to comment on the evidence and explain its actions. If the investigations lead the EPO to reasonably conclude that the violation occurred, it may temporarily or permanently suspend the relevant license upon written notice.
15.3 The EPO may further terminate the license with notice of no less than one month in other reasoned cases. This includes in particular cases in which, due to technical or legal changes, certain services can no longer form part of the EPO online services electronic infrastructure covered in the present Terms and conditions.
15.4 In the event of termination of the license, you shall immediately cease using the Software and - provided that you have the technical means to do so - delete or otherwise destroy all versions of the Software, including any copies made by you or on your behalf, irrespective of whether these are on CD-R, USB drive or any other medium.
16.1 You are permitted to load, display, execute or store the Software on your computer network, insofar as this is in accordance with the intended use of the Software.
16.2 You are entitled to keep or make backup copies of the Software for temporary use or for security purposes.
16.3 The following license restrictions shall apply:
- You are not permitted to use the Software other than for its intended purpose. Typically, the EPO makes Software available to enable you to comply with the prescribed technical standard for the electronic filing of patent applications and subsequent documents according to relevant Patent Law.
- You are not permitted to pass the Software on to third parties, unless the latter are your employees or are employed by the same company as you. The "same" company may not be a different legal person.
- You are not permitted to change or adapt the Software.
- You are not permitted to reconstruct the source code of the Software by means of reverse engineering. If you need information in order to achieve interoperability of the Software with your own computer software, you will request the EPO in writing and stating reasons for the necessary information. The EPO will then inform you within a reasonable period of time whether you can obtain the required information and the conditions under which it is provided.
- You are not permitted to remove any designation regarding copyrights, brands, trade names or other (intellectual) property rights from the Software.
16.4 The EPO is entitled to investigate whether you use the Software in a manner that corresponds with the aforementioned conditions. You undertake to cooperate with such an audit.
SECTION C. USER AUTHENTICATION MEANS
This Section C is applicable, in addition to Section A General Provisions, whenever the EPO supplies User Authentication Means to access the Services.
Article 17. User authentication
17.1 To access Services, Users will generally be required to authenticate via user name/password, mobile app, smartcard or other User Authentication Means. The User Authentication Means accepted by the EPO may change over time and may depend on the specific Service and role a User has. If the Service concerned relates to EPO Procedures, the relevant policy will be defined in relevant Patent Law. If the requested Service relates to other interactions with the EPO, the policy will be communicated in the relevant part of the Website.
17.2 For clarity, the EPO may determine that the way you access Services or parts thereof is modified due to technical restrictions or other reasons determined by the EPO at its discretion. This decision may include the situation that the User's entitlement to a certain User Authentication Means (e.g. smartcard) remains applicable while the User's ability to apply the smartcard to access a certain Service or part thereof is withdrawn (e.g. due to the User accepting a newer type of User Authentication Means for the Service).
17.3 The EPO may from time to time request that you provide additional information to identify or authenticate you and your role, due to the specific nature of a Service or for security reasons. This includes the situation that the EPO has determined in general to subject eligibility to obtain a User Account, User Authentication Means or access to Services to other, e.g. more stringent, criteria and subsequently Users may only maintain their initial entitlement if the EPO is able to establish that the User meets the newer criteria concerned.
Article 18. Loan and use
18.1 Hardware devices, such as smartcards, smartcard readers and USB-tokens, may be supplied to you from time to time by or on behalf of the EPO for authentication purposes. Such hardware devices remain the property of the EPO or the relevant EPO's subcontractor, unless specified otherwise. You must observe the care of a good custodian and return the device to the EPO upon the EPO's first request. You may use the device only for the intended purpose.
Article 19. Associated software
19.1 In order to use certain User Authentication Means you may be required to install software. If the software is licensed by the EPO, Section B applies. If the software is licensed by third parties under separate licence terms you must accept these license terms before installing or using the software. If you do not accept the separate license terms you may not be able to use the relevant User Authentication Means.
Article 20. Costs
20.1 If you apply for more than one smartcard within five years because of damage, loss, theft, blockage due to use of the wrong Admin PIN, certificate revocation or any other reason for which you are responsible, it is within the EPO's discretion to charge the associated costs to you. Where a certificate revocation or smartcard blockage can be traced to your breach of these general terms and conditions, it is within the EPO's discretion to either not supply another smartcard or to supply it at extra cost.
Article 21. Issuing of smartcards
21.1 By submitting an application for a smartcard you ask the Certification Authority (CA) for the EPO to issue you with a smartcard containing an EPO CA digital certificate for authentication (encryption) and non-repudiation (signing). This will enable you to carry out secure online transactions with the EPO and other relying parties as set out in the EPO public key infrastructure (PKI) certificate policy (CP) and certificate practice statement (CPS). The certificate is stored on an EPO smartcard together with the associated private and public key pairs. The smartcard can be used to digitally sign and decrypt secure communications with the EPO, which have been encrypted with your public key. The CP and CPS are available on the Website and can be requested via e-mail from email@example.com.
Article 22. User obligations for smartcards
22.1 By submitting an application for a smartcard you undertake to comply with the following obligations:
- to check on receipt of your smartcard that the information stored on the digital certificate is accurate;
- to indicate your acceptance / rejection of the digital certificate, in the former case by using the smartcard and in the latter by informing the RA for the EPO (European Patent Office) thereof without delay, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- to use the public and private keys, the certificate and the smartcard for their intended purpose only (as set out in the CP) and in accordance with the CP, the CPS and these general terms and conditions;
- to ensure that the private key, the smartcard and the PIN protecting the smartcard are protected at all times against loss, disclosure to any unauthorised party, modification or unauthorised use;
- to submit a revocation request to the RA immediately in the event of actual or suspected compromise of the private and / or public keys, the PIN, Admin PIN or smartcard, or in the event of any change in the information provided as part of the application for the smartcard;
- to inform the RA and the EPO's client data registration department, e-mail: email@example.com, immediately of any change to the additional information stored on your smartcard or relevant for its use, including changes relating to your person (title, name, address) and your relation to an employer, law firm or client/applicant (where you act for such), and any general information relating to said employer, law firm or client/applicant, as well as your status regarding any specific file with regard to which you are allowed to communicate with the EPO within a secure environment;
- to inform the RA immediately if, for any reason, your entitlement to hold the digital certificate is curtailed;
- to observe any legal restrictions or prohibition of use imposed by third parties with regard to the import or export of encryption technologies or products.
22.2 If you breach any of your obligations under these general terms and conditions or if necessary as a security precaution, the EPO is entitled to revoke the digital certificate and block the smartcard.
Article 23. Indemnification
23.1 You will indemnify and hold the EPO harmless from any and all liability arising out of or in connection with the use of your User Authentication Means for any other than its intended use or in any way that breaches your obligations under these terms and conditions. This particularly applies to third-party claims.
SECTION D. GLOSSARY OF TERMS
"You", "your" or "User" means any natural person who, as a patent applicant, professional representative, legal practitioner or other authorised person, has been registered at their request with the EPO for the use of Services.
"User Account" means the registration of a specific User for access to the EPO online services electronic infrastructure, enabling the user to seek access to this environment.
"EPO" means the European Patent Organisation, acting through its executive body the European Patent Office.
"EPC" means the Convention on the Grant of European Patents of 5 October 1973, in the latest version applicable.
"PCT" means the Patent Cooperation Treaty of 19 June 1970, in the latest version applicable.
"Patent Law" means the EPC and PCT and other relevant treaty-based patent law regimes and includes, where relevant, decisions of the President of the European Patent Office and notices from the European Patent Office, guidelines from the European Patent Office, as well as rules and instructions issued in the context of the PCT.
"EPO Procedures" means all procedures for the filing of patent applications, payment of patent fees, proceedings on oppositions or appeals and other procedures before the EPO under relevant Patent Law.
"EPO E-learning Activities" means all training offered by the EPO online.
"EPO Information Products" means all information, including publications and databases, offered by the EPO online and in electronic form which is subject to access control i.e. not publicly available via the Website.
"Services" means all online services, including all information depicted on such services, provided by the EPO for use in EPO Procedures (such as web-based filing tools and communication and mailbox services), as well as any other services made available online by the EPO concerning the dissemination of patent information, the promotion of knowledge about the patent system and intellectual property in general as well as interaction with the EPO and with other Users, if so permitted and facilitated, whether provided through the Website or via other communication channels as may be supported by the EPO from time to time, such as mobile apps or similar functionalities. Services include EPO E-learning Activities and EPO Information Products.
"Software" means all software, including documentation, made available by the EPO for download on the Website or via other (online or offline) distribution channels for use in EPO Procedures.
"User Authentication Means" means all methods, whether software based only or a combination of software and hardware, for authentication purposes such as smartcards, smartcard readers, mobile phone apps and USB-tokens supplied by or on behalf of the EPO for use to obtain access to Services and Software.
"Website" means the website www.epo.org.
"Website Terms" means the terms and conditions of use for the website of the European Patent Office accessible at https://www.epo.org/footer/terms/terms (as amended from time to time).