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New EPO Guidelines for Examination Come into Force

The latest version of the EPO's Guidelines for Examination comes into force today, 1 March 2021, and is available here.

As discussed in our earlier news item here, one aspect of note in the new Guidelines is the introduction of a stricter approach to amending the description for conformity with the claims.

Another interesting development is the introduction of examiner "consultations" by videoconference during the examination procedure (see here). For the last few years the EPO has been encouraging examiners and applicants to consider discussing substantive matters by telephone during prosecution, as part of its "early certainty" drive.

It seems that the EPO is hoping that its now-extensive videoconference infrastructure, which is already being used for the majority of examination, opposition and Board of Appeal oral proceedings (see our briefing here), can also be put to use more informally for consultations with examiners.

A number of changes have also been made to the section of the Guidelines that sets out how unity of invention should be assessed (see here). The general intention of these changes is harmonise practice between the EPO and the intellectual property offices of member states. On a practical level, the changes mean that examiners should start providing more extensive reasoning when unity objections are raised, which may be beneficial to applicants when deciding how best to address such objections during examination.

Finally, a new section specifically focused on antibodies has been added, which is discussed in our new briefing on antibodies here.