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EPO vs. USPTO Examination

Jim Ruttler, Patent Attorney

Posted Sunday, April 24, 2016 by Jim Ruttler

The EPO has a number of important differences as compared to the US for patent examination.

The first is that examination is relatively compact. You get search results and then examination with limited opportunity to amend. Upon final rejection, there is no opportunity to request further examination. This is quite different from the U.S. where search and examination can continue virtually indefinitely until agreement is reached as to the scope of allowable subject matter.

The second is that search and examination is separate at the EPO. One examiner does the searching and then this body of art is handed over to the examiner group. No additional searching is conducted during examination. In the U.S., the same examiner does the searching and examination and the examiner continues to update the search throughout the process. This makes the EPO search results much more important than the initial USPTO search results.

The third major difference is that amendments are constrained at the EPO. You may amend after receiving the search results back, but once examination has begun the EPO can deny further amendments. In the US, of course, amendments can be liberally made throughout examination. Thus, the EPO rewards you for putting your best foot forward whereas the USPTO permits you to participate in ongoing negotiations and amendments.

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