The European patent office has announced that it will start phasing in fully electronic communications, beginning with the following communications:
- The extended European search report pursuant to Rule 62 EPC (ie the European or partial European search report plus the European search opinion, or the declaration of no search).
- The international search report, together with the written opinion.
The ultimate aim is for this service to include all pre-grant communications.
This service is open to all professional representatives holding an EPO smart card and who have activated their electronic Mailbox. The Mailbox is a company based service, forming a single point of delivery for all communications from the EPO within that company. Once activated, the Mailbox can be accessed by anyone within the company who has a smart card.
When the EPO issues a communication, the user will receive an electronic communication in their Mailbox. This will contain a link to the relevant document in the electronic dossier in an EPO database. These items cannot be forwarded directly from the Mailbox, but can be downloaded to the user's computer. This is a one-way system, so it is not possible to reply to the EPO through the Mailbox.
It is important to note that the "10 day rule" will remain unchanged, so notification will be deemed to have occurred on the tenth day after transmission of the electronic communication.
The system is currently being tested by an initial user group, and is expected to be launched more widely in early 2012.
20 December 2011