In June 2014, the Global dossier service was launched by the EPO and is available through Espacenet providing access to more filewrappers for European and internationally filed application at the five major Offices (EPO, USPTO, SIPO, JPO and KIPO).

Further developments have now been announced and as part of the EPO’s ongoing development of online services for applicants, we have been advised that the EPO intend to provide applicants with a new “EPO Search for Life” service in late 2015. This service is designed for European or International-derived patent application where the EPO search has been issued and will give applicants who have used the EPO as their searching authority access to access to the public part of their Global Dossiers and to carry of a search results update prior to entry to the International or Regional Phase.

Four different types of searches will be available including:

Search Results Update – this is essentially an automatic update using the same search strategy as the official EPO search. It aims to provide prior-art documents that were not available during the search stage. The documents will be provided to the applicant only and will not be considered by the EPO Examiner or mentioned in the EPO Register.

Citing documents – this provides access to a list of patent applications whose search reports cite the EP application or related foreign applications. The aim of this search is to make applicants aware of potential licensing opportunities and further developments relating to the technology in question. This will be advantageous for applicants where the technology is at an early stage of development and should be a useful tool for researchers.

Cited documents – this will allow applicants to review the documents cited in search reports drawn up by Patent Offices other than the EPO for the patent family members of a given application. Access to electronic copies of these documents will be provided where available. This will be advantageous for collating a bibliographic list of cited documents (for the USPTO or other foreign Patent Offices for example).

Extended citations – this search aims to provide applicants with a overview of the technology landscape associated with their applications. This search will select and list the documents likely to be the most relevant to the technology in question and will be sortable by geographical area, by technical class or by date. The aim of this search is a starting point for freedom-to-operate searches or for exploring potential licensing opportunities.

This “Search for Life” service has only been recently publicised by the EPO as part of their ongoing online services development. We have been advised that there is no fee for these services. At present, we have been advised by the EPO that this service is expected to launch in late 2015. We will provide updates as to when this service is fully available to applicants.