The European Patent Office (EPO) has announced that as of March 1, 2023, it will no longer send faxes in proceedings under the European Patent Convention (EPC) and the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The EPO has stated that fax is not an official notification method under the EPC, and the number of faxes sent in the patent grant process has significantly decreased in recent years, with fax transmissions becoming increasingly unreliable.
In the context of the EPO’s Strategic Plan 2023 and its digital transformation of the patent grant procedure, the Mailbox service for electronic notification has been improved and expanded to cover 99% of communications issued in proceedings before the EPO. The Mailbox service is available to all users located in an EPC contracting state, for both EPC and PCT proceedings. The extension of the Mailbox to international users via the new PCT Link service is currently being piloted.
The EPO will now proceed to convey urgent information to users via the Mailbox service or email. Users who have not yet opted for electronic notification via the Mailbox will be asked to provide an email address to which an urgent communication will be sent for advance information as a courtesy service. In such cases, the relevant communication will also be dispatched by post, as it is at present.
Regarding international applications, Mailbox users (including PCT Link users) will receive any urgent communications from the EPO via the Mailbox. Users who have not yet opted for electronic notification via the Mailbox will generally be contacted by email for urgent communications using the email address provided in the PCT request form. Notification by post will follow.
The EPO has stated that this change of practice will contribute to the sustainability of its services. The EPO will progressively make the required changes in the relevant EPO forms by removing any fields in which users are asked to provide a fax number. However, this does not affect the filing of applications and other documents by fax, which remains available under the conditions defined by the President of the EPO.
The impact of this change is significant, as it reflects the continued shift towards digitalization and electronic notification in patent grant procedures. The EPO has improved and expanded its Mailbox service, making it more efficient and reliable, while also reducing costs and contributing to the sustainability of its services. The move away from fax notifications also highlights the increasing importance of cybersecurity and the need to protect sensitive information in patent grant procedures.