EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
Information from the EPO
Patent Prosecution Highway programme between the European Patent Office and the Eurasian Patent Office based on PCT and national work products
The present notice replaces that published in OJ EPO 2017, A77.
The European Patent Office (EPO) and the Eurasian Patent Office (EAPO) announced on 27 April 2017 their intention to launch a comprehensive Patent Prosecution Highway programme.
The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) leverages fast-track patent examination procedures already available at the offices to allow applicants to obtain corresponding patents faster and more efficiently. It also permits each office to exploit the work previously done by the other office.
II. The PPH programme
The PPH enables an applicant whose claims have been determined to be patentable/allowable to have a corresponding application filed with a PPH partner office processed in an accelerated manner while at the same time allowing the offices involved to exploit available work results.
Under the programme a PPH request can be based
either on the latest PCT work product (written opinion of the ISA (WO-ISA) or international preliminary examination report (IPER)) established by the EPO as ISA or IPEA,
or on the national work product established during the processing of a national application or a PCT application that has entered the national phase before the EPO or EAPO,
where this work product determines one or more claims to be patentable/allowable.
Where the EPO work product contains one or more claims that are determined to be patentable/allowable, the applicant may request participation in the PPH programme at EAPO. The procedures and requirements for filing a request with EAPO are available via www.eapo.org/en/?treaties=pph.
For the purposes of this notice
Office of Earlier Examination (OEE) refers to EAPO, the work product of which is used as a basis for the PPH request,
while the Office of Later Examination (OLE) refers to the EPO as the office before which participation in the PPH programme is being requested.
A. Term for the PPH programme between the EPO and EAPO
With effect from 1 October 2020 the PPH programme between the EPO and EAPO is extended for an indefinite period. The requirements laid forth below will apply to PPH requests filed with the EPO on or after 1 October 2020.
The EPO may terminate the PPH programme if the volume of participation exceeds a manageable level, or for any other reason. Notice will be published if the PPH programme between the EPO and EAPO is terminated.
B. Requirements for requesting participation in the PPH programme between the EPO and EAPO
In order to be eligible to participate in the PPH programme at the EPO, the following requirements must be met:
(1) The EP application for which participation in the PPH programme is requested must have the same earliest date with the corresponding application, whether this be the priority or filing date of a corresponding national application filed with EAPO or a corresponding PCT application that has entered the national phase before EAPO (see Annex).
(2) The corresponding application(s) has/have at least one claim indicated by EAPO to be patentable/allowable.
(3) All claims in the EP application for which a request for participation in the PPH programme is made must sufficiently correspond to the patentable/allowable claims in the OEE corresponding application(s). Claims are considered to sufficiently correspond where, accounting for differences due to claim format requirements, the claims are of the same or a similar scope or the claims in the EP application are narrower in scope than the claims in the OEE corresponding application(s). In this regard, a claim that is narrower in scope occurs when an OEE claim is amended to be further limited by an additional feature that is supported in the specification (description and/or claims). Additionally, a claim in the EP application which introduces a new/different category of claims than those indicated to be patentable/allowable by the OEE is not considered to sufficiently correspond. For example, where the OEE claims only contain claims to a process of manufacturing a product, then the claims in the EP application are not considered to sufficiently correspond if the EP claims introduce product claims that are dependent on the corresponding process claims. The applicant is required to declare that the claims between the EP and the OEE applications sufficiently correspond.
(4) Substantive examination of the EP application for which participation in the PPH programme is requested has not begun. The examination starting date is visible
for unpublished applications only at the request of the applicant or his representative or by inspecting the file using the My Files service,
for published applications to all in the European Patent Register.
C. Documents required for participation in the PPH programme
For participation in the PPH programme at the EPO the applicant has to:
(1) file a request for participation in the PPH programme. The request form
EPA/EPO/OEB 1009 (Participation in the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programme)
is available via the EPO website at www.epo.org;
(2) file a declaration of claims correspondence which is included in the request form EPA/EPO/OEB 1009;
(3) submit a copy of all the office actions for the OEE corresponding application(s) containing the patentable/allowable claims that are the basis for the PPH request and a translation thereof in one of the EPO official languages.
(4) submit a copy of the patentable/allowable claim(s) from the OEE application(s) and a translation thereof in one of the EPO official languages.
(5) submit copies of all the documents other than patent documents cited in the OEE office action(s) identified in point (3) above.
The applicant needs to submit paper copies of the documents identified in points (3) and (4) above unless these documents have already been filed in the EP application prior to the request for participation in the PPH programme. In this case it will not be necessary for the applicant to resubmit these documents with the PPH request. The applicant may simply refer to these documents and indicate in the request for participation in the PPH programme when these documents were previously filed in the EP application.
When the requirements set forth above are met, the request for participation in the PPH programme will be granted and the EP application will be processed in an accelerated manner. In those instances where the request for participation in the PPH programme does not meet all the requirements set forth above, the applicant will be notified and the defects in the request will be identified. The applicant will be given one opportunity to correct formal deficiencies identified in the request. If the request is not corrected, the application will be taken out of the PPH programme and the applicant will be notified.
D. Prosecution in an accelerated manner
Once the request for participation in the PPH programme has been granted, the EP application will be processed in an accelerated manner. The conditions applicable to the PACE programme1 apply by analogy to the prosecution of EP applications processed under the PPH programme between the EPO and EAPO.
Any inquiries concerning this notice may be addressed to the Directorate European and International Legal Affairs, PCT, at email@example.com.
1 Notice from the EPO dated 30 November 2015 concerning the programme for the accelerated prosecution of European patent applications – "PACE", OJ EPO 2015, A93.