Thursday, 29 June 2023

New referral to the Enlarged Board by T 0438/19 - is product on the market prior art if undue burden to analyse composition? (G 1/13)

 T 0438/19 of 27-06-2023 referred the following questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal for decision:

1. Is a product put on the market before the date of filing of a European patent application to be excluded from the state of the art within the meaning of Article 54(2) EPC for the sole reason that its composition or internal structure could not be analysed and reproduced without undue burden by the skilled person before that date?

2. If the answer to question 1 is no, is technical information about said product which was made available to the public before the filing date (e.g. by publication of technical brochure, non-patent or patent literature) state of the art within the meaning of Article 54(2) EPC, irrespective of whether the composition or internal structure of the product could be analysed and reproduced without undue burden by the skilled person before that date?

3. If the answer to question 1 is yes or the answer to question 2 is no, which criteria are to be applied in order to determine whether or not the composition or internal structure of the product could be analysed and reproduced without undue burden within the meaning of opinion G 1/92? In particular, is it required that the composition and internal structure of the product be fully analysable and identically reproducible?

The decision discusses alleged conflicting or at least diverging application of G 1/92, as well as G 1/92 itself, in detail. The reasons from the decision are cited below (no changes made except for highlighting in color).

The referral is pending under G 1/23 "solar cell".

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

T 2432/19 - Right to oral proceedings in form of a videoconference (no)

In the present opposition appeal case, the Board issued a summons to oral proceedings in Haar. The appellant (patent proprietor) requested that the oral proceedings be held by videoconference. No reasons were given for this request. The Board then issued a communication containing its provisional opinion. The parties were also informed that if the Board found it appropriate to do so, the oral proceedings might be held by videoconference. The parties were also asked to inform the Board if they wished to invoke any reasons against holding the oral proceedings by videoconference, for the case that the Board decided to use that format. The appellant repeated its request for oral proceedings by videoconference and stated that it knew of no reason why the oral proceedings could not be held by videoconference. The respondent invoked no reasons against holding oral proceedings by videoconference, but requested that the Board inform the parties as soon as possible if it decided to hold the oral proceedings by videoconference. Oral proceedings took place on the 25 April 2023 in person at the premises of the EPO in Haar. The Board argued that: 1. although the order of G 1/21 refers to an emergency situation, it follows from the ratio decidendi of this decision that in-person oral proceedings can only be denied under very limited conditions, even in a situation of general emergency such as a pandemic; 2. due to the fact that videoconferences, at least with current technology, can only provide a suboptimal form of communication, parties have a right to the optimum format for oral proceedings, i.e. in-person oral proceedings, that can only be denied under very limited conditions; and 3. e contrario it also follows from the reasons underlying the Enlarged Board's decision, that parties cannot force Boards to conduct videoconferences instead of in-person oral proceedings.

Thursday, 23 March 2023

BREAKING NEWS: G 2/21 decision is out - Plausibility

Today, the Boards of Appeal have published the News message shown below (no changes made, except emphasis added):

Press Communiqué of 23 March 2023 on decision G 2/21 of the Enlarged Board of Appeal

23 March 2023


The Enlarged Board of Appeal is the highest judicial authority under the European Patent Convention (EPC). Its main task is to ensure the uniform application of the EPC.

Technical Board of Appeal 3.3.02 referred questions on the principle of free evaluation of evidence and the notion of "plausibility" in the context of inventive step to the Enlarged Board of Appeal. With regard to the latter, the referring board identified three different lines of case law (see interlocutory decision T 116/18, Reasons 13.4-13.6).

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

T 2303/19 - In person oral proceedings are for now (no Covid-19 related travel restrictions) the optimum format as expressed in decision G 1/21

In the present opposition appeal case, the parties were summoned to attend oral proceedings at the EPO premises. The appellant requested that the oral proceedings take place by videoconference. The respondent did not consent to this request and suggested a mixed mode format. The Board decided to hold the oral proceedings in person, as at the relevant time there were no Covid-19 related travel restrictions which would impair the parties' possibilities to attend in person oral proceedings at the EPO premises, and that in person oral proceedings are for now the optimum format as expressed in decision G 1/21 (see here).

Friday, 4 November 2022

T 2194/19 - The "invention" is not necessarily and always to be equated with the "invention claimed", not required that all described "embodiments" must fall within the scope of the amended independent claims

In the present case, the examining division regarded several  paragraphs of the description to be at odds with independent claim 1, as amended.  The examining division equated the term "embodiment" with subject-matter that has to fall "within the scope of the invention as defined by the claims", and concluded that the description so adapted was not in conformity with the independent claims, contrary to Rule 42(1)(c) EPC, because the term "embodiment" was used in parts of the description that describe subject-matter that was not part of the subject-matter of these independent claims. Moreover, the examining division held that the "invention" must always be the "invention claimed" and the "invention" was defined by the independent claimws. The Board did not agree and held:
1) the EPC does not define that “the "invention" is necessarily and always to be equated with the "invention claimed"”, 
2) concluding from Art. 84 EPC that "embodiments" of the description of a patent application have to be within the scope of the (independent) claim cannot be derived from the EPC and can also also not be derived from the jurisprudence of the Boards of Appeal, and 
3) in particular Rule 42(1)(c) EPC cannot be the legal basis for establishing such a general and broad requirement for an adaptation of the description to the claims. It is simply not what this provision says.”
Herein, the Board deviates from the strict practice that the first instance nowadays applies as well as from Guidelines (2022) F-IV, 4.3. The Board does however not address the Guidelines, although that could have been expected in view of Art. 20(2) RPBA2020. Also, the Board hardly addresses the case law that the EPO considers to support the “delete all non-covered embodiments" approach that is used by the drafters of the Guidelines, and as a consequences do not discuss whether a referral to the Enlarged Board would be necessary acc Art. 20(1) RPBA2020. Note that the Board also does not mention T 1989/18 of 16.12.2021 that concluded that, as a general rule, not is not required to bring the description in line with (amended) claims intended for grant.

Saturday, 15 October 2022

Deemed date of receipt looses 10 days per 1 November 2023: shortens times to respond to communications!

10 days

A news message on the epi website indicates that the Administrative Council of the EPOrg decided to amen to Rule 126(2) EPC relating to the date on which a document sent by the EPO is deemed to be delivered. Currently, a documnt is deemed delivered 10 days after the date on the document. This will changer per 1 November 2023: as of that date, the date on which the document is deemed to be delivered is the date on the document, similarly to PCT Rule 80.6, second part (with with some differences, in particular the EPO keeping the burden of proving the date of delivery in the event of dispute, whereas under PCT that burden is with the applicant). 

I heard that, surprisingly, only one delegation voted against the change. Even though the entry into force of the amended Rule is about a year away, changing such a well-established rule that is know world-wide to the disadvantage and risk of the applicant may cause some accidents, which cannot in all cases be repaired: not knowing that the rule has changed will make a request for re-establishment of missing, for example, the appeal period, have hardly any chance of success.

Note that the change has no impact on the 9m opposition period (triggered by the mention of the grant in the bulletin), the 1m period for paying the filing and search fee (triggered by the filing), the 6m period to pay the examination fee and file the request for  examination (triggered by the mention of the publication of the search report in the bulletin), the 31m period for EP entry (triggered by the earliest priority date), nor any other periods that are triggered by an event other than notification.
It does however affect all periods for responding to an invitation to remedy a formal deficiency (in most cases, 2m), an office action (usually 4m, sometimes 2m; extendible), a R.161/162 communication (6m), invitations to pay claims fees in case of non-unity (2m), the period for requesting further processing (2m), the appeal periods (2m for notice & fee, 4m for grounds), and all other periods  that are triggered by the notification of letter/invitation/communication! 

So, when,  a communication is issued on 17 November 2023 under Rule 58 to file a missing translation:
- if the current Rule would still have applied, a response would need to be filed by
         17/11/2023 + 10d + 2m -> 27/1/2024 (Saturday) [R.134(1)] -> 29/1/2024 (Mon);
- with the amended Rule however, a response is to be filed by
         17/11/2023 + 2m -> 17/1/2024 (Wed)

The Administrative council documents are currently not yet available on the EPO website (here).

Update 21 November 2022: the Administrative council documents are now available on the EPO website:

    • CA/D 10/22 Decision of the Administrative Council of 13 October 2022 amending Rules 46, 49, 50, 57, 65, 82, 126, 127 and 131 of the Implementing Regulations to the European Patent Convention; amended Rules 46, 49, 50, 57, 65, 82 in force as of 1.2.2023; amended Rules 126, 127 and 131 in force as of 1.11.2023;
    •  CA/30/22 Rev. 2 Legal changes to support digital transformation in the patent grant procedure (first basket): amendments to the EPC Implementing Regulations (Preparatory documents for the decision)

The epi news message is cited below (no changed made): 

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

T 17/22 - On the "Invitation pursuant to Rule 137(4) EPC and Article 94(3) EPC"

In the present case, the examining division issued a decision to refuse the application based on the ground under Article 123(2) EPC and on lack of novelty, lack of inventive step and lack of clarity. However, the examining division had issued only two communications before deciding to refuse the application: the first was a communication under Rules 161(1) and 162 EPC, inviting the applicant to correct any deficiencies noted in the written opinion raised by the EPO as ISA in the international phase, and the second was a communication under Rule 137(4) EPC headed "Invitation pursuant to Rule 137(4) and Article 94(3) EPC", accompanied by an annex raising an objection under Article 123(2) EPC and the statement: "nota bene: The amendment appears also not suitable to remedy the deficiencies". In the statement setting out the grounds of appeal, "the appellant contended among others that the examining division had committed a substantial procedural violation as, in the proceedings before the examining division, the appellant never had the opportunity to address the objections as expressed in the appealed decision. Moreover, with the invitation pursuant to Rule 137(4) EPC, the appellant had only been alerted that certain amendments had not been sufficiently identified and/or their basis in the application as filed has not been sufficiently indicated. The subsequent decision to refuse the European patent application without any further ado had come completely to the surprise of the appellant. Thus, the appellant submitted that the right to be heard under Article 113(1) EPC had been violated.".
The Board considered the scope of Art. 94(3) EPC in detail and considered that at least one substantive communication pursuant to Art. 94(3) EPC and Rule 71(1) EPC is required before a decision to refuse the application on substantive grounds is issued (or, exceptionally, summons for OP). The Board addressed in detail whether a communication under Rules 161(1) and 162 EPC can/cannot be considered a communication under Article 94(3) EPC and whether an "Invitation pursuant to Rule 137(4) EPC and Article 94(3) EPC" can/cannot considered a substantive communication under Article 94(3) EPC.