EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
Information from the EPO
Patent Prosecution Highway programme between the European Patent Office and IP Australia based on PCT and national work products
The present notice replaces that published in OJ EPO 2019, A58.
The European Patent Office (EPO) and IP Australia (IPA) have decided to extend the comprehensive Patent Prosecution Highway programme (PPH).
The 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. 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 PPH 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 one of the participating offices 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 one of the participating offices,
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 IPA. The procedures and requirements for filing a request with IPA are available via ipaustralia.gov.au/patents/applying-patent/standard-patent-application-process/examination-standard-patent/ipa-epo-pph.
For the purposes of this notice
Office of Earlier Examination (OEE) refers to IPA, also in its capacity as ISA and/or IPEA, 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 IPA
With effect from 1 July 2022 the PPH programme between the EPO and IPA is extended for an indefinite period. The requirements laid forth below will apply to PPH requests filed with the EPO on or after 1 July 2022.
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 IPA is terminated.
B. Requirements for requesting participation in the PPH programme between the EPO and IPA
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 as the corresponding application, whether this be the priority or filing date of a corresponding national application filed with IPA (see Annex 1) or a corresponding PCT application for which IPA has been ISA and/or IPEA1 (see Annex 2).
(2) The corresponding application(s) must have at least one claim indicated by IPA in its capacity as a national office or ISA and/or IPEA to be patentable/allowable. The claim(s) determined as novel, inventive and industrially applicable by the ISA and/or IPEA has/have the meaning of patentable/allowable for the purposes of this notice.
(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 claim from 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 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
either 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,
the latest work product in the international phase of a PCT application, the WO-ISA or, where a demand under PCT Chapter II has been filed, the WO-IPEA or the IPER 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) or the PCT work product referred to in point (3) above.
If any of the documents referred to in points (3) and (4) above
(a) have already been filed in the EP application prior to the request for participation in the PPH programme, it is not 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.
(b) are available via DAS (Dossier Access System)2 or Patentscope, the applicant does not need to submit a copy thereof, but has to provide a list of the documents to be retrieved. Machine translations will be admissible for the documents referred to in points (3) and (4) above. The EPO will request applicants to submit a translation of the documents referred to in points (3) and (4) above if DAS does not provide a machine translation. The EPO can request applicants to submit an accurate translation if the machine translation is insufficient. If the OEE application(s) is (are) unpublished, the applicant must submit the documents referred to in points (3) and (4) above upon filing the PPH request.
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 programme3 apply by analogy to the prosecution of EP applications processed under the PPH programme between the EPO and IPA.
Any inquiries concerning this notice may be addressed to Directorate European and International Legal Affairs, PCT, at
1 Applications for which the EPO was ISA and/or IPEA are not eligible for processing via the PPH before the EPO as DO/EO. The EPO understanding of the PPH is that an application is processed in an accelerated manner on the basis of a patentability assessment made by another office. Where the EPO has been ISA and/or IPEA, the PCT WO/ISA or IPER have effectively the same status as a first communication in substantive examination before the EPO as DO/EO. Thus, in this case there is no work product that can be considered work done by "another" office. This case can, however, fall under the regular programme for accelerated processing of European patent applications ("PACE") which the applicant can request.
2 IPA: AusPat, IP Australia's search database.
3 Notice from the EPO dated 30 November 2015 concerning the programme for the accelerated prosecution of European patent applications – "PACE", OJ EPO 2015, A93.