News from epi

M. Névant (FR), Editorial CommitteeM. Névant (FR)

As indicated in the editorial of this issue of epi Information, the Presidium took appropriate steps to support the activity of the various bodies of epi, and to react to decisions impacting our profession. A message from the Presidium was sent to members on 31st March 2020 (and made available on our website) with information about:

  • Cancellation of the Council meeting in Glasgow
  • epi Secretariat continuity plans activated
  • epi letter to the EPO regarding the EQE cancellation
  • Short report of the “mock e-Council” meeting of the AC
  • Letter from the EPO President regarding oral proceedings by videoconference
  • Message from the International Bureau regarding postal mail and e-mail

The content of this message is reproduced below.

Cancellation of the Council meeting in Glasgow

In this situation, when a state of emergency has been declared in several countries, with international travel essentially limited to repatriation, it is clear that the meeting of our Council that was planned to take place in Glasgow on 11th and 12th May cannot take place as planned. It has also become clear that no spring meeting can be organised later this year contrary to what could be done in 2010 when the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull disrupted air travel in Europe.

The Presidium has been looking at the situation created by the impossibility to organise a spring meeting of our Council, with the support of our By-Laws Committee. We will let you know what contingency plans will be implemented once they will have been adopted by the BoardThe decision was subsequently made to hold the 88th Council meeting by videoconference on 29th June 2020. In the meantime, Council members should please keep the date of 11th May available in case a videoconference meeting can reasonably be organised on that date.

epi Secretariat continuity plans activated

Measures have been implemented to ensure, as far as possible under the circumstances, support for the Presidium, Board, Council and committees. The Secretariat’s business continuity plans have been activated, with most staff working from home. The offices will remain closed until further notice; no visitors will be admitted.

epi letter to the EPO regarding the EQE cancellation

You are no doubt aware that the March EQE session was cancelled, and that it is planned to organise a postponed session in September, if possible. In this regard, the Presidium has decided to send a letter to the President of the EPO, which is published here.

Short report of the “mock e-Council” meeting of the AC

Last Wednesday, during a "mock e-Council” meeting of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation, the President of the EPO presented his report. The report included several actions related to the present situation. In particular, as part of support to the users in the patent granting procedure, two points were cited in the slides:

  • Extension of time limits for all procedures, postponement of all oral proceedings (examination, opposition, appeal) until 17 April 2020 [orally, it was indicated that this date would "soon" be postponed]
  • Preparation of the adjustment of legal framework to further facilitate the use of video-conferencing for oral proceedings.

Your president intervened to explain the difficult situation of many of our members and their clients, and to thank the Office for its understanding that the users are also affected by the crisis.

The President of the Boards of Appeal also presented his report. Finally, the situation created by the decision of the German Constitutional Court was briefly discussed.

Letter from the EPO President regarding the use of video-conferencing for oral proceedings

Your president has received a letter from the President of the EPO, wherein he explains that the EPO would now like to establish video-conferencing as the standard way of conducting oral proceedings in examination, and to allow this in opposition upon request of a party or at the instigation of the division. The letter can be read here.

The EPO intends to inform users about this measure at a videoconference meeting of the SACEPO Working Party Rules on 31st March 2020, which the epi delegates will join.

Message from the International Bureau regarding the use of postal mail and e-mail

Your president has received this morning a kind message from the International Bureau wishing well to all their epi friends and asking us to ensure that the epi members who use the PCT are made aware of a practice change announced on the WIPO website yesterday.

As noted in WIPO Update on COVID-19 press release on March 16, 2020, the International Bureau remains in full operation. However, given the unreliability of postal systems worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Bureau (also as receiving Office) has suspended all communication by postal mail until further notice. The International Bureau will transmit all PCT-related documents only via email to the email address provided in relation to each international application. Please note that PCT-related documents are also available through ePCT and also on PATENTSCOPE for published international applications.

For PCT applications in which the applicant or agent has not provided a contact email address, the International Bureau urges PCT users to urgently provide the contact email address in relation to their pending international application(s). The International Bureau has published detailed instructions on its website at on how to submit the contact email address in relevant cases.

All PCT users are strongly encouraged to avoid PCT-related submissions by postal mail and to communicate with the International Bureau exclusively by appropriate electronic means.

Further messages relating to epi activities were sent to members and posted on the website, see here and here.