The European Patent Office (EPO) has recently announced that in an effort to improve the electronic processing of patent applications it will discontinue its current practice of accepting handwritten amended pages as replacements for pages of the application on file. The announcement was made on 8 November 2013 and the change will be implemented from 1 January 2014.
The European Patent Convention (EPC) already requires the description, claims and abstract of a patent application to be typed or printed but up until now the EPO has generally allowed hand written amended pages to be submitted during examination and opposition proceedings. The EPO has now indicated its intention to stop this practice from 1 January 2014. The change is being driven by the EPO’s desire to produce the text intended for publication of the granted patent (the so-called Druckexemplar text) electronically. As a result, it needs all pages that comprise the text in a form that can be accurately processed using text processing software.
Most practitioners already routinely submit any replacement pages (e.g. amended claim sets) in typed form during written proceedings. The practice of submitting hand-amended pages is, however, common at oral proceedings. For example, amended description pages containing amendments to bring the description into line with the allowed claims are frequently submitted at hearings. This will no longer be possible. It will therefore be advisable for practitioners attending hearings to take a laptop with them, along with an electronic copy of any documents that are likely to need to be amended.
This change primarily has practical implications for practitioners and especially those attending oral hearings. Potentially, however, the electronic production of the text intended for publication of the granted patent will improve the accuracy of this process and thereby the accuracy of the text of granted European patents.