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Since the first European Patent Convention (EPC) came into force in the seventies, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been informing any designated inventor of a European patent application of the data about his or her designation and the bibliographic data of the patent application. The bibliographic data are the patent application number and date of filing, the date, State and file number of any priority application, the name of the applicant, the title of the invention, and the Contracting States designated.
This long-established practice will soon be discontinued. Indeed, for any designation of the inventor newly filed (or rectified) on or after April 1, 2021, inventors will no longer be notified by the EPO about their designation. For this reason, applicants will no longer be required to indicate the full address of the inventor in the application. The country and place of residence will be sufficient.
Based on the travaux préparatoires of the EPC 1973, this practice appears to have been devised with the aim of ensuring that the inventor can have full access to the above-mentioned bibliographic data. In the meantime, however, the possibilities for searching and accessing patent information online have been tremendously expanded. As a consequence, the EPO has considered that the notification is no longer necessary and has amended the relevant rule of the EPC accordingly (new text of Rule 19 EPC). In the absence of this notification, inventors can nevertheless obtain information about their designation in different ways, namely from the applicant, via file inspection, and, once the patent application is published, through inspection of the online European patent register. While applicants have a legal obligation to inform inventors about their designation only in some countries (and, based on specific national provisions on employee inventions, also about the progress of the grant procedure), inventors may always acquire information about the patent application and the grant procedure themselves through the patent register after publication of the patent application.
Interestingly, the amendment to the EPC law has been introduced within the context of a joint initiative among EPO member states aimed at defining common practices. The designation of the inventor is one of the first two common practices which have been adopted so far by EPO member states in the Administrative Council. The other common practice adopted so far relates to the examination of the unity of invention. Although these common practices are intended to be implemented on a voluntary basis, they can contribute to aligning administrative practices between the EPO and the IP national offices of the EPC member states more closely and may therefore be generally welcomed by users.