The European Patent Office have recently published a preview of their new Guidelines for Examination. These will take effect on 1 March 2021. There are a number of significant changes and my colleagues will be reporting on some of these soon.

It is not widely recognized that these are the first set of EPO Guidelines published after a public consultation. This consultation took place in March and April 2020. This timing, at the start of the global Covid pandemic, probably did not help to encourage a large number of responses.

The EPO are planning to launch a new consultation on the Guidelines in the coming months. Over the years, I have often discussed aspects of EPO practice with clients and non-European Patent Attorneys, often complaining about inconsistent, unhelpful or costly approaches. Some of these are codified in the EPO's Guidelines and the EPO's consultations offer an opportunity for users of the Patent system to have their voices heard.

I should note that some aspects of EPO practice are based on the European Patent Convention, the Rules set by the European Patent Organisation Administrative Council and decisions of the EPO Boards of Appeal. The consultation will not affect these, however strongly user opinion is voiced. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of areas where the EPO's Guidelines influence the Patent application process, in issues as wide as how assignments are recorded, what changes need to be made to the description of a patent when claims are amended and which AI inventions are considered patentable.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the EPO will accept the suggestions made from the consultation. That said, the chance to make constructive criticism and put forward suggestions to the EPO on these points is fairly rare. Don't miss the opportunity to have your say!