A critical review: The EPC.App
A combination of an electronic platform and a printed book
G. Wesela-Bauman (PL)
The EPC.App arrived in 2018, offering a new solution for candidates preparing for the EQE and for already-qualified European Patent Attorneys.
This review is to provide information about what the EPC.App is and what it actually offers to the community today. Also, I will present my view on aspects in which the EPC.App stands out as well as where some improvements might be introduced. In the review, I will also include observations and hints on how I adapted it to my preferences.
The EPC.App consists of an electronic web-based platform and of an independently distributed printed book. The platform and the book contain the same amount of information, i.e. the EPC, additional regulations and the authors’ comments (i.e. the commentary). There are, however, distinct differences in using the platform and the book.
As a consequence, this review will be separated into three parts: a part devoted to the commentary in general, to the platform and to the book.
In the commentary, each article is followed by its implementing rules. The typical layout of the commentary is that an article / rule is placed on the left-hand side while the right hand is reserved for comments. Comments are also placed below each provision. The upper-right corner is reserved for putting references to related articles, rules, GL or CLBA. The layout looks clean and well-structured.
In articles, rules and comments, selected words or phrases are underlined to get a quick recognition of the content solely on the basis of these words or phrases. It requires some time to get a sense of this system, but once you understand it, the system helps you to scan the content for relevant information. Time limits, fees, legal consequences or language-related information are specifically highlighted using distinct colours and, thus, can immediately be identified without reading of a whole provision or a comment relating to it.
Comments on the right-hand side are providing information helping in understanding the provision. Also, on the right you will find legal consequences or remedies. Below the provision, you can find more detailed comments together with relevant case law on various legal aspects. Comments are written like notes and, thus, they are condensed and to the point.
The case law is usually presented in the form of a headnote followed by comments to the decision. The decisions seem to be selected based on their importance to a given provision.
The layout and the writing style seem to be uniform throughout the commentary. There are exceptions and some articles are presented in a slightly different style than the others, e.g. comments under Art. 83 are in a single column whereas comments under Art. 84 are in a double-column layout. However, when jumping from article to article, each time the layout actually helps in understanding and using a provision.
It is clear for me that the commentary is source-based and, as often as possible, reproduces or quotes headnotes of decisions, OJs or parts of the GL. This allows a reader to fully understand the law exactly as it was formulated by the EPO.
The authors indicate on their webpage that the EPC.App does not contain all information available. I think this deserve some comments. For sure, the commentary does not include the PCT as there is the PCT.App devoted to this. The EPC.App does, however, include e.g. the Rules of Procedure of the (Enlarged) Boards of Appeal, various OJs, all protocols or even the London Agreement. Careful revision of the commentary revealed that certain case law could be added together with GL passages. I would also add further links or comments on certain aspects which are more relevant to my practice. However, the content of this edition of the commentary already seems to be pretty saturated. For sure, the commentary is in continuous development.
In summary, it is clear that on commentary is focused on providing information in easy and fast way. The layout helps in orientation and searching for legal basis. Despite lacking some case law, GL passages or comments, the commentary can be used in everyday work or during the exam as it already contains the relevant information.
The platform is something I was really looking forward to test as it gives you a possibility to make your own annotations, notes, to add case law, GL passages or to even hide the comments made by the authors if that is needed. A user can also add own colour markings to the commentary to highlight important information or information on time limits, fees, legal consequences or language requirements. By doing so, you can build your own source of information about the EPC.
In the platform, annotations are connected to other elements of the commentary, i.e. paragraphs of articles and rules or comments. It follows that this is a platform of interconnected elements and not an Excel-type database. It surely requires some training to use the platform efficiently. However, even a beginner will not have problems with modifying the content of the commentary by using the platform.
There is no history of changes made on the platform and there is no “reverse” button to undo already made changes. So, if you delete your own annotation, it will be deleted permanently. However, you can make yourself a backup version of your database using the pdf-generator. Generated pdfs are stored on the server and so they can be used as a history and a backup of data that you put into the platform.
There are various options for pdf generation. Enough to optimise the type of pdf you would like to obtain (i.e. optimized for page number or for clarity), but not too complicated to make it difficult to obtain a useful pdf. The generation usually takes around 6 minutes and it is made on the server. After the generation process is completed, you can download the pdf and print it. Pdfs are also important as the platform seems not to have a full-text search engine. Thus, if I needed to find something, I used a generated pdf for searching.
During my tests, the platform sometimes revealed lagsIt should be noted that the tests were made also during the time of the pandemic and, thus, during a time when a lot of computer resources were used for running normal businesses.. However, recently the authors published information that the database was optimised for better performance and to reduce lags. Since the update, I have not observed lags. This indicates that the platform was not optimized before and that the problem should now be resolved.
The platform is web browser based, so it can be used on any device (including cell phones). For example, I used it while traveling to check something on an Android-based cell phone. The capacity of the cell phone and the 4G bandwidth were more than enough to use the platform for checking the legal basis. This also means that in case of a malfunctioning computer, you are not losing access to the platform and your annotations.
Having a subscription allows for obtaining immediately benefits from updates. That includes twice a year updates to the commentary and new functions implemented to the platform. Moreover, added annotations are retained after any update to the commentary, so that they will be exported to a newly created pdf afterwards.
In short, the platform is one of the key aspects of the EPC.App. It provides you with the commentary and a possibility to add, optimise its content or export as a pdf, suitably to your needs. While it may still lack some functionalities, there are methods to achieve the desired results and the platform is ready for sustaining your personal database relating to the EPC.
The book is available from Amazon and it seems to be printed at a location depending on where it is ordered. Thus, there was no problem to receive a book during the time of the lockdown.
It seems that the book is optimized to be used at the EQE with a minimum effort invested in adaptation after being bought. The book, however, does not have an index of terms and, instead, it relies on two tables of contents (one for overview and one which is detailed) and on an index of legal provisions and decisions for searching for legal basis. Pages are marked on the edge so that you can find a relevant part of the EPC. It may require a bit of practice to use this type of system for orientation in the EPC, but having an implemented system saves a lot of time usually spent on designing and making your own system.
Words or phrases in the provisions and the comments are underlined with black-and-white markings. Therefore, they are not as transparent as the coloured ones used in the platform, but this makes the book more affordable.
The book has a handy format and it can easily be placed on the desk next to an EQE D1 paper. The paper used for printing the book is of good quality, so the pages should survive even heavy use.
In summary, the book is suited for use during the exam and requires minimum modifications after buying. The quality of the book is good and the black-and-white markings, which may be not as transparent as the coloured ones, contribute to effectiveness of the book during the exam and to a balanced cost of the book.
The EPC.App is built around a uniform idea of providing information about the EPC in a fast, condense and adaptable way. While it is still being developed furtherIt should be noted that the authors act towards critical opinions and offer discounts for those providing feedback. I already sent a pack of my own comments and suggestions, including the ones presented in this review., it already offers a mature solution for EPC users. The printed book seems to be essentially ready-to-use at the EQE exam and the electronic platform is a more sophisticated solution providing a long-term support for European Patent Attorneys in efficiently keeping track of EPC updates.