Message to readers

First of all, I wish all readers strength in these times. Probably EPO case law is the least of our worries these days. Moreover, the Boa...

6 Apr 2020

T 0113/19 - From preferred minimum to maximum in claim

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, claim 1 includes the feature that the claimed material has a specific surface of "between 10 and 15 m²/g". The application as filed mentions that the inventive composition has a specific surface of at least 10 m²/g and that it is particularly desirable to have a specific surface of at least 15 m²/g. The Board considers that this preferred minimum of 15 m²/g provides basis for the claimed range wherein the value is maximum.
  • The Board: “La demande divulgue donc un domaine de 10 à 15 qu'on peut qualifier de satisfaisant et un domaine au delà de 15 qui peut être qualifié de très satisfaisant. Il va de soi que l'homme du métier ne va pas écarter les compositions ayant une surface spécifique comprise entre 10 m²/g et 15 m²/g.”
  • It is not relevant that the sole example is outside the now claimed range.

EPO T 0113/19 - link

Motifs de la décision

Le seul jeu de revendications du requérant 1 est admissible pour les raisons suivantes :

1. Article 123(2) CBE

La revendication 1 se fonde sur les revendications 1, 2 et 5 et la description, page 3, lignes 33 à 35 de la demande telle que déposée.

Le débat portait sur la plage "comprise entre 10 m**(2)/g et 15 m**(2)/g".

Les conditions énoncées à l'article 123(2) CBE sont remplies.

La demande telle que déposée ( ci-après "la demande") divulgue qu'il y a un besoin de catalyseurs présentant une grande stabilité de leur surface spécifique (page 1, lignes 19 à 21). Une composition ayant une surface spécifique après calcination 6 heures à 1150°C d'au moins 10 m**(2)/g est considérée comme répondant à cet objectif (voir page 1, lignes 26 à 28). Il est donc évident pour l'homme du métier qu'un des avantages de l'invention est de pouvoir obtenir une composition avec une telle surface spécifique. Il est spécifié à la page 2, ligne 25 de la demande qu'il est particulièrement désiré d'avoir une surface spécifique après calcination 6 heures à 1150°C d'au moins 15 m**(2)/g. Cela veut dire que l'homme du métier utilise de préférence des compositions ayant une telle surface spécifique élevée. Une telle composition est décrite dans l'exemple du brevet. L'homme du métier comprend, à la lecture de la demande telle que déposée, que les compositions ayant une surface spécifique d'au moins 10 m**(2)/g ont déjà la qualité requise, mais que celles ayant une surface spécifique allant au delà de 15 m**(2)/g sont encore meilleures. La demande divulgue donc un domaine de 10 à 15 qu'on peut qualifier de satisfaisant et un domaine au delà de 15 qui peut être qualifié de très satisfaisant. Il va de soi que l'homme du métier ne va pas écarter les compositions ayant une surface spécifique comprise entre 10 m**(2)/g et 15 m**(2)/g.

Ceci est aussi en accord avec la décision T 1170/02 qui explique que l'homme du métier, en s'appuyant sur les données figurant dans la demande initiale (point 4.5 des motifs) et notamment sur l'exemple du brevet (point 4.5.2 des motifs), aurait sérieusement envisagé d'opérer dans la nouvelle plage (combinaison du seuil inférieur de la plage générale et du seuil inférieur de la plage préférée). Cette argumentation a aussi été suivie dans la décision T 205/13 qui se fondait également sur le fait que des exemples étaient compris dans la nouvelle plage créée (point 5.2 des motifs). Dans le cas de la décision T 1389/08, la nouvelle plage était acceptée même s'il n'y avait pas d'exemple compris dans cette plage (point 5.2 des motifs).

Cette dernière décision confirme donc que le fait que le seul exemple soit en dehors de la nouvelle plage revendiquée ne veut pas dire que cette plage ne peut pas être déduite directement et sans équivoque de la demande telle que déposée. Dans la présente espèce, la revendication est seulement limitée à ce qui peut être considéré comme satisfaisant et exclut ce qui est encore mieux.

Toutes ces décisions concernent des combinaisons de plages ayant un seuil inférieur et un seuil supérieur. L'enseignement s'applique aussi à la présente espèce, car le point crucial est l'analyse de l'enseignement de la demande telle que déposée pour déterminer si la nouvelle plage en découle directement et sans équivoque, ou non.

3 Apr 2020

Video oral proceedings and online communications

Readers of this weblog will likely be already aware that in-person oral proceedings with Examining Divisions have been abolished with immediate effect (Notice; Decision; news item of epi).

In-person oral proceedings will from now on only be held for exceptional cases such as the hearing of witnesses and the inspection of models. In-person oral proceedings are hence not suspended for a limited period because of the corona virus, but abolished completely for Examining Divisions.

According to Mr. Campinos, the measure contributes to “a more efficient, modern and sustainable European patent system” (letter of the President). Video interviews (i.e. with the primary Examiner) are also available.
The "epi" protested (letter) but as of yet to no avail, as regards examining divisions (the President's proposal to allow for video oral proceedings in opposition division was apparently not pushed through).

Update 04.04.2020: I would like to clarify that my view is that it is highly doubtful whether video oral proceedings are sufficient under Article 116 EPC. In addition to my comments below about the refund for withdrawing requests for oral proceedings in appeal, I consider the refund to be effectively a fee for the exercise of the right to oral proceedings under Article 116, which is in my view is an unallowable curtailment of Article 116. I also consider both legal measures to be steps on a slippery slope to hollowing out Article 116.

Clearly, established practices become flexible these times. Let's brainstorm about other changes that could finally be made now so to move to paperless and fully digital proceedings before the EPO:

  • Issuing paper patent certificates only on request. Many offices already do this. The cost-saving could be shared with users by a freeze of the grant fee.
  • Acknowledgement receipts should no longer assume the use of fax by applicants. The easiest thing would be a QR code on the letter that can be scanned by the recipient to acknowledge receipt (apparently, "a pilot on using email for notifications related to pending oral proceedings" is considered now, link).
    • Let's also delete 'fax'  in Rule 41(2)(c) urgently where the Rule still says: “It is recommended that the fax and telephone numbers be indicated”.
  • Online signing with an app. More specifically, it would be very desirable for the EPO to participate in the EU system of recognition of online signatures under the eIDAS regulation (Regulation (EU) 910/2014). National public bodies of EU Member States are required to recognize the national electronic signatures of citizens issued in other EU states under this system (I think this applies in fact to the Patent Offices of EU Member States as well). This allows businesses and citizens (and professionals) to use their national electronic signature throughout the EU in dealing with public bodies. Depending on the electronic signature systems offered in the various Member States, this can be e.g. a secure online app on mobile phones and other devices, thereby finally allowing for signing documents 'on the go'. The eIDAS system goes up to the highest security level 4. Hundreds of public bodies throughout the EU offer eIDAS login (or will offer so once the Regulation is actually implemented). 
  • Issuing Communications as character-coded text instead of 'dead image PDF'. Hence, Communications wherein you can copy/paste the text without having to run OCR first. If applicants are supposed to file their applications and amended claims in XML in the near future, perhaps the Office can show the example by moving first (I don't dare to ask for Communications in structured text or even in XML, that seems a distant dream). 
On the related topic of oral proceedings, it seems to me that the partial refund of the appeal fee in case of withdrawal of a request for oral proceedings can be further simplified. In particular, if an appellant expressly waives his right to oral proceedings with the Notice of appeal, a corresponding reduction of the appeal fee can be granted. This avoids that applicants file merely formal requests for oral proceedings only in order to benefit from the refund by withdrawing them in due time.
I think such a reduction can be especially advantageous if the Boards would make clear that they will not deal with such appeals out of turn (unless acceleration is requested). The reason is that many appeals appear to be filed only in order to have something pending for a few more years and the risk of a swift refusal of the appeal clearly outweighs any cost saving of the appeal fee. Hence, a confirmation that the appeal will not be dismissed 'out of turn' seems important to provide an effective incentive to appellants to not file merely precautionary requests for oral proceedings and in fact to waive the right to summons.

Furthermore, if applicants and representatives no longer have to travel to Munich or The Hague by the use of video oral proceedings, it seems reasonable to schedule in advance a maximum time (e.g. 2 hours) for video oral proceedings.  This allows for the more compact scheduling of video oral proceedings, especially in technical fields where applicants frequently don't show up at oral proceedings. In the exceptional case that during the video conference it turns out that more time is necessary for a fair discussion of the case, additional video oral proceedings can easily be scheduled for a later day. 

Comments are welcome (even slightly political ones)!

T 1426/14 - RE refused, renewal fee refunded

Key points

  • The applicant had failed to pay the renewal fee with surcharge during his appeal against the refusal of the application. He requests re-establishment. The Board refuses the request due to lack of due care. As part of the RE request, the omitted act was completed as prescribed and hence the renewal fee with surchare was paid.
  • The Board orders the refund of the renewal fee at issue (including the surcharge). 
  • “Therefore all due care on the applicant's side cannot be acknowledged and the request for re-establishment of rights has to be refused. This means that the loss of rights communicated on 7 February 2019 has become final and the application is deemed to be withdrawn. Since the renewal fee for the 9**(th) year and the additional fee were paid after the loss of rights occurred, they were paid without legal basis and therefore have to be reimbursed.”
  • As a comment, Rule 136(2) EPC prescribes that the renewal fee must be paid as part of the omitted act. Still, in line with G 1/18, it is correct to say that the renewal fee was “paid without legal basis” and is reimbursed.
  • The Board is competent to decide on the RE request, instead of the examining division.
  • “The noting of loss of rights was issued by the formalities officer on behalf of the examining division. At that time, however, the appeal proceedings were pending. Thus the loss of rights resulting from the failure to pay the renewal fees occurred in the course of the appeal proceedings. Given that with the commencement of the appeal proceedings, the competence to decide on the case has moved from the department of first instance to the Boards of Appeal [], the Board is competent to decide on the request for re-establishment of rights [].” This illustrates the devolutive effect of appeal.
About due care  for renewal fees and clients using payment service companies
  • In case the applicant uses a payment service company and the European professional representative is instructed to pay no renewal fees: “However, in the present case, the representative was informed about the applicant's intentions and he could be sure that the applicant was aware of the running time limit. Once the applicant had clearly indicated that he had taken note and that he would pay, the representative had fulfilled his obligations and the responsibility shifted to the applicant.”
  • “ All due care of an applicant in such a situation requires that he carefully studies the letters he receives from his consultants and gives the required instructions in good time.”
  • “The Board does not concur with this view because that mistake [pf the applicant] could have been avoided if the applicant had properly read the correspondence sent to him by his consultants [letter from professional representative], which is to be expected from a careful applicant taking part in business life.”

EPO T 1426/14 -  link

Reasons for the Decision

Board's competence to decide

1. According to Rule 136(4) EPC the department competent to decide on the omitted act shall decide on the request for re-establishment of rights. The noting of loss of rights was issued by the formalities officer on behalf of the examining division. At that time, however, the appeal proceedings were pending. Thus the loss of rights resulting from the failure to pay the renewal fees occurred in the course of the appeal proceedings. Given that with the commencement of the appeal proceedings, the competence to decide on the case has moved from the department of first instance to the Boards of Appeal (T 473/91, OJ EPO 1993, 630, Reasons 1.2), the Board is competent to decide on the request for re-establishment of rights (T 555/08, Reasons 2; see also T 936/90, Reasons 1; T 1381/11, Reasons 2; T 649/13, Reasons 3 and T 1201/10, Reasons 1).

2 Apr 2020

T 0939/16 - AR's not decided on by the OD

Key points

  • This decision concerns an opposition appeal. The decision touches upon numerous interesting aspects.
  • Firstly, the admissibility of AR-1 to 3, which correspond to requests filed before the OD (one month before the oral proceedings before the OD). The OD had found the Main Request allowable and therefore the OD did not consider these requests. Article 12(4) RPBA 2007 applies. The Board considers that for such a scenario, Article 12(4) RPBA 2007 does not provide a ground for holding the requests inadmissible; the Board also sees no other grounds for excluding these requests. 
    • I note that the Board does not assess whether the requests were late-filed or not before the OD.
  • About admissibility of AR-8 filed at the end of the oral proceedings before the Board: this request can not be held inadmissible only because it was filed late in the procedure, because the matter of how a particular claim feature was to be interpreted, was only raised in the appeal proceedings during the oral proceedings before the Board. Importantly, the Board adds that an earlier discussion of precisely hat issue already before the OD is not relevant for the admissibility.  
  • The Board: “Grundsätzlich sollte der Beschwerdegegnerin [patentee], die erst während der mündlichen Verhandlung mit diesem Einwand konfrontiert wurde, daher die Gelegenheit gegeben werden, diesen Einwand auszuräumen. Somit kann allein der Umstand der späten Einreichung eine Nichtzulassung des Hilfsantrags 8 nicht rechtfertigen.”
  • However, AR-8 is not admitted because it prima facie raises issues of Article 123(2).
  • For inventive step, the Board considers the minimum temperature recited in the claim (which is a distinguishing feature) to be an arbitrary choice (or arbitrary variation) which does not contribute to inventive step because choosing arbitrarily is routine.
    • “Da insbesondere nicht gezeigt wurde, dass diesem Wert von 90 °C eine besondere Bedeutung zuzumessen ist, ist das Merkmal M2 weder zielgerichtet noch kritisch, sondern als rein willkürlich gewählt zu betrachten. Diese willkürliche Wahl einer hohen Temperatur bei der Polyesterschmelzstrangzerteilung stellt jedoch wegen ihrer Beliebigkeit lediglich eine Routinetätigkeit dar, die im Rahmen des handwerklichen Könnens des Fachmanns liegt, ohne dass es ein erfinderisches Zutun seinerseits bedürfte.” (emphasis added).
  • The Board also notes that for the question whether the CPA document  D2 discloses a certain claim feature, the broadest technically meaningful interpretation of the claim feature is to be used.
    • Was den Begriff "Dosiereinrichtung" gemäß Merkmal M7 betrifft, wurde von der Beschwerdegegnerin nicht gezeigt, dass dieser eine eindeutige Bedeutung hat. Somit ist dieser Begriff in seiner breitesten, technisch sinnvollen Bedeutung zu verstehen.
      [...] Schließlich teilt die Kammer die Meinung der Beschwerdegegnerin nicht, wonach dem Begriff "Dosiereinrichtung" im Hinblick auf die Gesamtoffenbarung der Patentschrift eine eingeschränkte Bedeutung zuzuordnen sei. Wie im vorherigen Absatz ausgeführt, muss diesem Begriff seine breiteste technisch sinnvolle Bedeutung gegeben werden.

EPO T 0939/16 -  link


Entgegenhaltung D8 - Zulassung

1. Während der mündlichen Verhandlung vor der Kammer nahm die Beschwerdeführerin, bei der Erörterung der Frage der erfinderischen Tätigkeit Bezug auf die Entgegenhaltung D8, um ihre Argumentation zu stützen, dass das Merkmal M2 des erteilten Anspruchs 1 im Beispiel 3, Variante B, der D2 implizit offenbart sei.

1.1 Jedoch beantragte die Beschwerdegegnerin, die Entgegenhaltung D8 nicht ins Verfahren zuzulassen.

1.2 Was die Zulassung der D8 betrifft, ist zunächst zu klären, wann diese Entgegenhaltung im Verfahren zum ersten Mal herangezogen wurde, was zwischen den Parteien strittig war.

In diesem Zusammenhang brachte die Beschwerdeführerin vor, dass D8 bereits seit dem Beginn des Beschwerdeverfahrens im Verfahren sei, da sie einerseits in D2 zitiert und anderseits das Prioritätsdokument der D3 sei, wobei D2 und D3 zweifellos im Verfahren seien. Jedoch spielt die Tatsache, dass D8 in D2 zitiert ist, oder dass D3 im Verfahren ist, für die Frage, ob das Dokument D8 bereits im Verfahren ist, keine Rolle, und dies, unabhängig davon, ob D8 das Prioritätsdokument von D3 ist oder nicht. Es ist lediglich zu klären, wann die Entgegenhaltung D8 per se zum ersten Mal von einer der Parteien herangezogen wurde. Diesbezüglich kam die Kammer in der mündlichen Verhandlung im Einklang mit den Parteien zu dem Ergebnis, dass die Entgegenhaltung D8 von der Beschwerdeführerin zum ersten Mal in der mündlichen Verhandlung vor der Kammer herangezogen wurde.

1 Apr 2020

T 0136/16 - Do not wait for the Board's preliminary opinion

Key points

  • In this opposition appeal, the opponent is the appellant. The Board disagrees with the narrow claim interpretation adopted by the OD, interprets claim 1 broadly and finds it to be not novel. The opponent had contested the narrow claim interpretation by the OD in detail in its Statement of grounds. After receiving the (probably negative) preliminary opinion of the Board, the patentee files two new auxiliary requests. The Board does not admit these requests: they should have been filed by the patentee as the respondent in its Statement of response (currently Art.12(1)(c)  RPBA 2020). 
  • The Board notes that the patentee could not have assumed that the Board would follow the OD, in view of opponent's detailed arguments in its Statement of grounds: “Die Beschwerdegegnerin [patentee] hätte also bereits mit ihrer Erwiderung Anlass gehabt, die vorgenommene Änderung durchzuführen, die auf dem zuvor umfänglich diskutierten Sachverhalt, insbesondere Absatz 7 des Patents, beruht. Die Beschwerdegegnerin [patentee] hatte keinen Anlass davon auszugehen, dass die Beschwerdekammer in jedem Fall der Linie der Einspruchsabteilung und Beschwerdegegnerin [patentee] folgen würde. Dass die Vielzahl der vorgetragenen Angriffe ohne eine vorläufige Beurteilung der Kammer der Formulierung sinnvoller Hilfsanträge entgegengestanden hätte, überzeugt die Kammer im Hinblick auf die zentrale Bedeutung der Auslegung des Begriffs "Zugangsstockwerk" in nahezu allen vorgetragenen Einwänden nicht. Zudem sieht die Kammer unter diesen Umständen und entgegen der Meinung der Beschwerdegegnerin die Vorlage von Hilfsanträgen mit dieser Änderung erst zu diesem Zeitpunkt im Beschwerdeverfahren als der Verfahrensökonomie abträglich an.”
  • The Board also reimbursed the appeal fee in full because of a substantial procedural violation by the OD. The OD had not admitted the inventive step attacks, presented by the opponent during the oral proceedings, which were based on the documents that were found to be not novelty destroying by the OD. The OD gave as reasons in the decision that no convincing reasons had been given why these new attacks were more relevant as the earlier presented inventive step attacks based on other documents, such that the attacks were not prima facie relevant. The Board concludes that the minutes do not show that the opponent was given an opportunity by the OD to present its arguments in favor of the prima facie relevance. The minutes of the oral proceedings before the OD do not show any discussion of prima facie relevance of the new attacks. This is a violation of the right to be heard and a substantial procedural violation. Moreover, the opponent's appeal is successful, such that the appeal fee is reimbursed. 

EPO T 0136/16 -  link

Sachverhalt und Anträge

I. Die Beschwerdeführerin (Einsprechende) hat Beschwerde gegen die Zurückweisung ihres Einspruchs gegen das europäische Patent Nr. 1 666 398 durch die Einspruchsabteilung eingelegt.

II. Aus dem Verlauf des Einspruchsverfahrens ist folgender Sachverhalt für die hier zu treffende Entscheidung über die Beschwerde relevant.

a) Der Einspruch war unter anderem gestützt auf die Einspruchsgründe nach Artikel 100 a) in Verbindung mit 54 und 56 EPÜ.


c) Neuheitseinwände wurden in der Einspruchsschrift auf Grundlage von E1 bis E3 erhoben, erfinderische Tätigkeit wurde nur ausgehend von E4 oder E6 als nächstliegendem Stand der Technik in Kombination mit E5 angegriffen.

31 Mar 2020

T 1029/16 - Not addressing applicant's arguments

Key points

  • “In the present case, the written decision does not provide the Examining Division's reasons for not admitting the second auxiliary request into the proceedings. As explained above, the written decision must give reasons for the rejection of each one of the requests, including those not admitted into the proceedings, in order to enable a judicial review []” 
  • “The minutes of the oral proceedings reproduce arguments given by members of the Examining Division for not admitting the second auxiliary request, but since the written decision does not endorse any of those arguments either by repeating them or by reference, they are not part of the final decision. Failing to justify in the written decision why a request was not admitted into the proceedings infringes Rule 111(2) EPC and amounts to a substantial procedural violation.”
  • “Regarding the main request, the written reasoning of the decision under appeal consists essentially of text copied from the [preliminary opinion with three additional points]. (...) Thus, none of these three points deals with the applicant's arguments submitted after the summons to oral proceedings. Similarly, the reasoning for refusing the first auxiliary request does not address the applicant's arguments.”
  • “In sum, the written reasoning of the decision under appeal does not deal with any of the arguments that the applicant submitted at the oral proceedings and in its letter dated 20 July 2015 in reply to the summons.”
  • This is a substantial procedural violation. The appeal fee is reimbursed even though the main request and first auxiliary request are not allowable; the case is remitted for the second auxiliary request.

EPO T 1029/16 -  link

9.5 Therefore, the Board is satisfied that independent claims 1 and 5 of the third auxiliary request fulfil the requirements of Articles 84 and 123(2) EPC.

Procedural violation

10. In its statement of grounds of appeal, the appellant requested reimbursement of the appeal fee by reason of a substantial procedural violation since the applicant's right to be heard had not been observed. The written reasoning of the decision under appeal did not seem to deal with the arguments put forward by the applicant during the oral proceedings.

[applicant's arguments]

The appellant argued that according to well-established case law, as could be derived from decisions T 1123/04 of 25 August 2006 and T 852/07 of 25 January 2008, as well as the EPO Guidelines for Examination, the right to be heard was a right to not just present comments but also have those comments duly considered.
In the present case, the decision in respect of the main request seemed to be copied from the summons to oral proceedings dated 8 April 2015. The only three paragraphs concerning the main request which had not been directly copied appeared to be a paraphrased version of what had been said in the summons.
In its written submissions, the applicant had already replied to the arguments raised in the summons. It was hence not clear whether and how the applicant's reply had been considered by the Examining Division.
Hence, the Examining Division had failed to provide adequate reasoning in the decision, contrary to Rule 111 (2) EPC. This was also a substantial procedural violation, as noted by well-established case law including T 353/11 of 16 May 2012, and T 2366/11 of 26 March 2012.
Furthermore, it was clear that the decision had very little in common with what had actually been discussed at the oral proceedings. As was clear from page 1 of the minutes, all of the objections raised by the Examining Division related to determining the technical effect of particular features of the claims and the technical problem that the invention solved. In response to this, the applicant summarised the invention as defined by the claims as well as the objective technical problem solved by the invention. However, it was not clear from the decision how any aspect of this discussion had any correlation whatsoever with the decision, which appeared to have been at least partly (if not entirely) made based on issues that were not discussed at the oral proceedings.
The appellant gave examples of concrete arguments submitted in advance of the oral proceedings with its letter dated 20 July 2015 which allegedly had not been addressed by the Examining Division.

At the oral proceedings, the appellant also argued that the long prosecution time in the present case amounted to a procedural violation.

30 Mar 2020

G 0001/18 - Late appeal fee (English)

Key points

  • The reasons for G 1/18 were published in English in OJ 2020 A26.
  • As a practical matter, the paragraphs are not numbered so it's not so easy to give precise references. The overall structure of the paragraph numbering is e.g. A.II.3.(4).(b).(α) ; with all the reason being in chapter B.
  • The question is the interpretation of Art.108 EPC, second sentence: “notice of appeal shall not be deemed to have been filed until the fee for appeal has been paid”; in particular how this sentence must be applied to cases wherein the appeal fee is (factually) paid but after the expiry of the appeal period. The Board notes that the word ‘deemed’ creates a legal fiction.
  • The Enlarged Board: “On a first reading of this second sentence (narrow literal interpretation) [which the EBA rejects], its legal fiction can be understood to mean that, on this basis, solely the date of filing the appeal can be established. If, for example, notice of appeal is filed within the two-month period but the appeal fee is filed after expiry of that period, the appeal is deemed, in accordance with this narrow literal reading, to have been filed on the date the appeal fee is paid, that is, in this example, after the two-month period, with the result that the appeal is inadmissible under Rule 101(1) EPC” (B.IV.1.(2).(a).
  • “On a second reading of this second sentence (broad literal interpretation) [which the EBA adopts], the legal fiction is that, in order for the appeal to be regarded as filed, the appeal fee must have been paid within the two-month period prescribed in the first sentence of Article 108 EPC. The use in the English version of the second sentence in the EPC 2000 of "... until ..." [] introduces a temporal link with the first sentence and thus relates to a filed appeal which becomes effective only if the condition laid down in the second sentence, is satisfied, i.e. the fee was paid either at the same time or later but still within the two-month period.”
  • The EBA adopts the ‘broad literal interpretation’, inter alia because G1/86, r.8 had held that: “An appeal is regarded as lodged only when it has been filed and the appropriate fee paid. In performing these two acts the appellant initiates the procedure. The legal process has begun”. The EBA in G1/18 “can only concur with that finding” of G1/86. I note that G1/86 doesn't say 'timely'.
  • As a comment, I find the EBA's reasoning about the 'broader literal interpretation' difficult to follow. However, clearly the prevailing view is confirmed.
  • The EBA also notes that the outcome is consistent with the proposal of the Haertel draft of July 1961. The EBA appears to conclude that there was never a conscious decision to change the sanction, despite the wording of the prevision being changed during the various rounds of drafting. That argument seems valid and persuasive to me; the Haertel draft is indeed the fundament for the EPC.
    • The 1961 draft Article 93  is in on page 69 of the FR PDF document with the travaux to Article 108 EPC.
    • The Heartel draft as such is available as PDF here and listed on the EPO website here as IV/5569/61-F; the trick is to browse the French version of website. However, that document seems incomplete, e.g. the draft article at issue (then numbered as Article 93) is not included in it. The Haertel draft was originally only in German, but is not included in the list of German travaux documents. The draft provision reads: “Wird die Beschwerdegebühr nicht rechtzeitig entrichtet, so gilt die Beschwerde als nicht erhoben.” (DE  Travaux to Article 108, page 4 of the PDF). 
  • The EBA: “the deletion of the expression "dans les délais" (or "rechtzeitig" in the German version) suggests that the legislator intended to include, besides cases of late payment, a failure to pay the fee at all, without thereby ruling out that the legal sanction (deemed non-filing of the appeal) was to be communicated to the appellant”. 
    • The EBA here considers the amended Heartel draft of 26.09.1961 with reference number IV/5569/1/61-F ( page 64 of the FR Trav. Prep. Doc to Art. 108 ; this draft provision appears to be lacking in the DE version of the Trav. Prep. to Art.108).
  • The EBA, with some annotations of me: “Consequently, to conclude [as a Technical Board did] [...] [from the change in IV/5569/1/61-F]  that the legislator no longer wished to treat late payment of the appeal fee as a special case [as was proposed in IV/5569/61-F] (with the result [of the treatment as special case] that the appeal is deemed not to have been filed) amounts to an interpretation that goes beyond the discussions and the draft articles adopted.” 
    • Here, the ‘special treatment’ is that the sanction is in Article 93 whereas the sanction for other formal deficiencies was in Article 97 of both the original and the amended Heartel draft. So, the EPBA concludes that there was no legislative intention to change the original proposal that the appeal is deemed to not have been filed in  case of late payment of the appeal fee.
    • The EBA states that “the legal fiction expressed as "recours ... considéré comme non avenu ..." was in fact retained by the drafting committee in the redrafted Article 93 (see above document IV/5569/1/61-F)”. However, Article 93 at issue appears to recite “n'est considéré comme formé” / “est considéré comme non formé” (pages 64 and 69 of the FR Trav. Prep. Doc to Art. 108)
  • The EBA furthermore explains that the appeal fee only becomes payable upon filing of the notice of appeal, under Article 4 Rfees. 

EPO - G 0001/18 OJ 2020 A26 and G 0001/18 (clean html text)


I. Referral under Article 112(1)(b) EPC

In a letter dated 7 June 2018, the President of the European Patent Office (EPO) referred the following point of law to the Enlarged Board of Appeal under Article 112(1)(b) EPC:

"If notice of appeal is filed and/or the appeal fee is paid after expiry of the two-month time limit under Article 108 EPC, is the appeal inadmissible or is it deemed not to have been filed, and must the appeal fee be reimbursed?"

In that referral, the President of the EPO wrote that the requirements of Article 112(1)(b) EPC had been met: different boards of appeal had given different decisions on that question and an answer to it was necessary "in order to ensure uniform application of the law". As evidence of different decisions, the referral cited T 1897/17 as representing the "minority" view in the case law that the appeal is inadmissible and T 1325/15 and T 2406/16 as representing the "majority" view in the case law that the appeal is deemed not to have been filed. The President of the EPO added that the answer "is certain to have an impact on the practice of the Office's departments of first instance", several EPC provisions having similar wording.

The different board decisions analysed by the President of the EPO in his referral have been summarised as follows.