Report of the Online Communications Committee (OCC)

J. Gray (GB), ChairJ. Gray (GB), Chair

OCC and its members have remained busy in the last period. Following Council's endorsement of the proposed submission to Mr Campinos' Strategic Plan, the EPO president opened the consultation on the strategic plan more widely. Our detailed comments were submitted following a broader response from our president.

Four of us OCC members are also members of the SACEPO working group on the electronic patent process (e-SACEPO or SACEPO-EPP). For C85 we reported on the special meeting of SACEPO-EPP about eDrex. On 30 January 2019 there was the regular annual meeting of SACEPO-EPP.

They were very similar to the comments input to the Strategic Plan. A significant element was on the topic of outages which had been experienced by EPO users between Christmas and New Year. The EPO offers some fulsome apologies, and it is to be hoped that ears and eyes are wide open now to the concerns that had already been identified and highlighted at the previous Council. We look forward to action on the number of fronts, especially, for example, improving legal certainty about when deadlines will and will not be extended under Rule 134 (1) EPC, second sentence.

For this meeting JG provided detailed questions/comments and these were very well received, and a good template for preparation for future meetings. SACEPO-EPP working group also includes representatives from attorney national associations, industry and paralegal associations, and everyone benefits from this contact.

SACEPO-EPP meetings also fall within a rolling cycle of meetings of the working group on rules SACEPO-WPR and the working group on patent documentation and information, SACEPO-PDI. There is a good continuity and flow of ideas between these groups, not only within epi but also via overlapping membership at the EPO side and the SACEPO Secretariat.

OCC receives a steady flow of experiences from users of the different online systems, mostly of course "horror stories" or cautionary tales and limitations of the EPO systems. Mostly, however, these are received through EPPC or the Presidium, Council members, i.e. "those in the know" about epi organisation. We aim to raise awareness for OCC activities among the membership at large.

In this regard, OCC member Florian Stöckle organised a survey among epi members on the experience of videoconferencing with the EPO and an excellent 553 responses were received.

Future consultations are being considered around members' usage of online systems, especially with a view to what members do for back-up/contingency.

OCC is also considering issuing guidance to epi members on "preparedness" for when things go wrong.

Council is informed OCC members have been actively supporting EPPC in its liaison with WIPO/IB on the subject of their online filing systems (ePCT) and particularly on the subject of turning off fax. (Whether this activity needs to be reflected in amended Terms of Reference of OCC will be kept under review.) In the meantime, given that no system can be perfectly robust, another line of investigation is the potential for collaboration between authorities such as WIPO and EPO and national offices, so that each can serve in some way as a backup to the other.

* Annexes:
OCC1 Letter from F Leyder to EPO President's Strategic Review
OCC2 EPO minutes of SACEPO-EPP meeting 30 January 2019
OCC3 EPO update on current status of online filing and other systems
OCC4 EPO update on E-business user support
OCC5 EPO update on patent information services

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