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Guidelines for Search and Examination at the EPO as PCT Authority

March 2022 edition

The Guidelines for Search and Examination at the EPO as PCT Authority give instructions on the practice and procedure to be followed in various aspects of the handling of international applications before the EPO as International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority.

Content description

By decision of the President of the EPO dated 16 December 2021 and pursuant to Article 10(2) EPC, the Guidelines for Search and Examination at the EPO as PCT Authority have been amended. As announced in the Notice from the EPO dated 25 January 2021 (OJ EPO 2022, A11), they apply as from 1 March 2022.

The Guidelines have the following seven-part structure:

  • Part A: Guidelines for Formalities Examination
  • Part B: Guidelines for Search
  • Part C: Guidelines for Procedural Aspects in Chapter II
  • Part E: Guidelines on General Procedural Matters
  • Part F: The International Application
  • Part G: Substantive Requirements of the Application
  • Part H: Amendments and Corrections

Part A deals with the procedures for formalities examination when the EPO acts as receiving Office, (Supplementary) International Searching Authority and International Preliminary Examining Authority. Part B deals with search matters when the EPO acts as (Supplementary) International Searching Authority. Part C relates to procedures to be followed in Chapter II when the EPO acts as International Preliminary Examining Authority.

Part E deals with procedural matters relevant to several or all of the stages of the procedure before the EPO as International Authority.

Substantive requirements are explained in Parts F, G and H:

  • Part F deals with the requirements which the application must fulfil other than patentability, in particular unity of invention (Rule13 PCT), sufficiency of disclosure (Art.5PCT), clarity (Art.6PCT) and the right to priority (Art.8PCT).
  • Part G deals with subject-matter excluded from search (Art.17(2)(a)(i) and Rule39 PCT) and examination (Art.34(4)(a)(i) and Rule67PCT), novelty (Art.33(2)PCT), inventive step (Art.33(3)PCT) and industrial application (Art.33(4)PCT).
  • Part H deals with the requirements relating to amendments and corrections, in particular compliance with Art.19(2)PCT and Art.34(2)(b)PCT.

Feedback on this edition

The EPO actively seeks feedback on the most recent edition of the Guidelines in a public user consultation each spring, but users are welcome to send suggestions for additions or improvements at any time of the year to patentlaw@epo.org (for the EPC Guidelines) or international_pct_affairs@epo.org (for the PCT-EPO Guidelines).

Available formats and amendments

The revised Guidelines for Search and Examination at the EPO as PCT Authority (March 2022) are available online in the EPO's three official languages in both PDF and HTML format.

Amendments in the 2022 revision have been made to almost all parts of the PCT-EPO Guidelines. The major change is the expansion of Part A, which now includes a chapter on languages (Chapter VII) and a new section 1.6 in Chapter VI on the applicant's entitlement to claim priority. Other amendments aim at further improving the text of the previous edition or at updating it.

The amendments can be viewed in the HTML publication by ticking the "Show modifications" box in the upper right corner, which displays inserted text with a green background and deleted text in red strikethrough font. For sections in which no changes have been made, the tick box is greyed out.

Please use our advanced search to search within full-text HTML versions of EPO legal texts. You can limit your search to one or more of these texts.

Important notice: The March 2022 edition of these Guidelines is the only valid official version, and supersedes the March 2021 edition as from 1 March 2022.