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Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office

Edition March 2021

The Guidelines for Examination contain instructions on the practical and procedural aspects of examining European applications and patents under the European Patent Convention and its Implementing Regulations.

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By order of the President of the EPO dated January 25, 2021 and pursuant to Article 10 (2) EPC, the guidelines for examination were amended. As announced in the notice from the EPO dated January 25, 2021 (OJ EPO 2021, A6), the new guidelines will come into force on March 1, 2021.

The guidelines consist of eight parts:

  • Part A: Formal examination guidelines
  • Part B: Research guidelines
  • Part C.: Guidelines for the procedural aspects of substantive examination
  • Part D.: Guidelines for the opposition procedure and the limitation or revocation procedure
  • Part E.: Guidelines for general procedural questions
  • Part F.: The European patent application
  • Part G: Patentability
  • Part H: Changes and corrections

Part A describes the formal check, especially for the granting procedure. Part B deals with research. Parts C and D concern the procedures applicable to the examination and opposition proceedings.

Part E deals with procedural issues that are relevant to several or all stages of the procedure. This part also contains information on the procedure at the EPO as designated or elected Office in relation to Euro-PCT applications.

Parts F, G and H explain the substantive requirements for the procedure under the EPC:

  • Part F describes the requirements that the application must meet in addition to the requirements for patentability, in particular the unity of the invention (Article 82), sufficient disclosure (Article 83) and clarity (Article 84) as well as the right of priority (Article 87 to Art. 89).
  • Part G sets out the patentability requirements anchored in Art. 52 to Art. 57, in particular the exceptions to patentability (Art. 52 (2) and Art. 53), novelty (Art. 54), inventive step (Art. 56) and commercial applicability (Art. 57).
  • Part H covers the requirements for changes and corrections. In particular, it also deals with questions of admissibility (Rule 80 and Rule 137) and compliance with Article 123 (2) and (3) as well as Rule 139 and Rule 140.

Available formats and changes

The revised guidelines for examination (March 2021) are available online in the three official languages ​​of the EPO in PDF and HTML format. The paper publication has been discontinued.

During the 2021 revision, changes were made in all eight parts in order to adapt the guidelines to legal and procedural developments.

The changes can be made visible in the HTML publication by clicking the "Show changes" box (top right). This means that inserted text passages are highlighted in green, deletions are shown in red and crossed out. The box is deactivated (gray) for sections in which nothing has changed. Downloadable PDF versions of the guidelines are also available on the website, including a fair copy and a version showing any changes.

All HTML and PDF versions include

  1. a non-exhaustive alphabetical index of keywords,
  2. an index of computer-implemented inventions with direct hyperlinks to the relevant sections in the guidelines,
  3. a full list of the changed sections with the corresponding hyperlinks.

Use our advanced search to search the full HTML version of EPO legal texts. You can limit your research to one or more legal texts.

Important NOTE: The March 2021 edition of the guidelines is the only valid official version and will replace the guidelines as of November 2019 from March 1, 2021.