Tuesday, December 21, 2021

EQE 2022 bug fixes, and lessons learned from EQE 2021

During the annual EQE Tutor's meeting on 19 & 20 Oct 2021 (online this year), EQE 2021 was discussed in detail, as well as the expectations of changes to be implemented for EQE 2022. The general approach is to slowly improve the issues: each change needs to be thoroughly tested to make sure improvements work reliably and do not make things worse. I have now tried the updated WISEflow platform and summarised the most important points and tips relevant for EQE 2022 based on the meetings and the experiences from candidates last year.

1. General advice:

  • Watch the EPO’s EQE pages for updates: EPO EQE online page, EQE Notices & Downloads, EQE FAQ's
  • Join the EQE Telegram groups to discuss issues with other candidates: Main group (283 members), Study group (108 members), ABC&PE-claims (167 members), D&PE-legal (137 members) and Marketplace (58 members). The groups are public, and open to any tutors or candidates. A few rules: treat others with respect, no discussion of cheating, no exchange of large sections of copyrighted materials (use of excerpts for study and discussion allowed). During scheduled exams, no discussion of the exam questions or answers. During mocks, no restrictions.
  • WISEflow and LockDown browser provide limited possibilities compared to daily online working, so practice as much as possible with them.
  • Do as many mocks as possible, even if you have not had any problems before. If short on time, at least do the initial part where the photos are taken and the flow is started. 
  • Practice using the External references, and decide beforehand what will be faster to look up on paper, and what will be faster online. 
  • Maximise your typing speed by taking an online typing course and using a comfortable keyboard / mouse. Become less dependent on answering on paper.
2. General IT advice = avoid issues
  • Although helpdesk will be available and there are possibilities for complaints and even appeal, any issues during an exam will cause at least 20 minutes to be lost, and there is a minimum amount for marking that you must hand-in to be awarded a pass. So, it is better to avoid issues as much as possible.
  • Lockdown browser is designed differently to other apps - it is not designed for stability, but to continuously monitor and to crash when something suspicious is detected. On startup, certain applications are closed. During operation, anticipated "forbidden" actions are blocked. But there will always be situations that are unexpected and unanticipated, particularly when running on the many different hardware/software configurations.
  • Software is being continuously updated, so past positive results during mocks do not guarantee that you will have no issues during the exams. 
  • Least chance of issues if you use a dedicated desktop with one screen (at least 27 inch), one camera, one microphone, one keyboard, one mouse, one loudspeaker device, one printer, direct wired (USB/HDMI) connections to all peripherals, administrator access, cabled (LAN) access.
  • Don't use: hardware and apps you do not need, VPN (changes to IP address crashes LockDown Browser), and docking stations/port replicators.
  • Turn off: screensavers, sleep/hibernate functions, scheduled tasks like virus checking and backup, and delay windows updates.
  • Most chance of issues: corporate laptop without administrator access, laptop with an internal and an external camera, intelligent firewalls, or active virus scanners.

 3. Advice about EQE 2022 Exams

  • Expect the 2022 exams to look very similar to the 2021 exams. Making exams takes 2-3 years in total, so the EQE 2022 exams cannot be fully adapted to the online format. It is not easy too split an existing exam into parts. EQE 2021 exams also had this problem - splitting was done by the relevant committee under responsibility of the Examination Board.
  • The version of WISEflow and LockDown Browser available at Christmas 2021 will be the final one.
  • More than one answer is frequently accepted (decided after the exam). But you can still fail if you are an acceptable answer track, and don't hand in enough to be marked. Make sure you hand-in as much as possible. 
  • B exam will be still be difficult because you cannot easily compare - no side-by-side viewing of tabs.
  • C exam will be difficult because of the split into two parts.

4. WISEflow and LockDown improvements for EQE 2022

  • Current version: LockDown Browser 2.07.07 - 18 Dec 21
  • Can now annotate exams when opened in a tab. Comments can be added, text can be highlighted, shapes can be added. These annotations are visible in all tabs where the exam is opened.
  • Opening too many tabs used to longer crash the LockDown Browser. The maximum number of tabs depends on the display size. Now, a warning is generated that tabs must first be closed before new tabs can be opened.
  • Can now apply strikethrough to text in the answer to be handed in.
  • Copy paste seems to me to be improved. However, this is a problem where they do not understand what the cause of the problem is, so it is not certain it will work well on all exams.
  • The invigilation has been integrated into a green hover button/window which remains on top in the answer tab. 
  • Language switching of assignment has been changed to avoid the D1.1 problem in 2021.
  • Side-by-side viewing of tabs is still not possible. Only the exam preview window can be viewed next to the answer tab, which is very limited in functionality.
  • Pre-exam: the three languages have been separated in the questions, but not in the answers.
  • ALT-TAB caused problems last year with crashes after being entered twice. It was stated during the 2022 exams that that it will just have no function. I have not seen any any problems during the mocks. I will try again in the full-function mocks in January.
Click READ MORE for other comments from Tutor's Meeting

Saturday, December 18, 2021

EPO as a PCT Authority (31 Oct 21) now available to order

EPO as a PCT Authority collects and organises the implementation details when the EPO operates under PCT It covers PCT filing (RO), search (ISA, SISA), and examination (IPEA) before the EPO. It also covers PCT-Direct, Supplementary PCT Search, regional entry into the European phase (DO/EO), and formalities after EP entry.

It is useful for daily practice by those dealing with the EPO. It also includes references considered essential for EQE exam candidates. 

It includes Indexed Versions of PCT-relevant Guidelines:
  • Euro-PCT Guide (EPG) - 1 Jan 21
  • EPO-PCT Guidelines (GL/PCT-EPO) - 1 Mar 21
  • EPO Guidelines (GL/EPO) – PCT part only (Ch. E-IX) - 1 Mar 21
Our Indexed Versions improves on the official version by grouping the index entries at the front and abbreviating entries to allow quick scanning, using page numbers to speed up getting to the correct page, indicating sections with significant changes in the last 3 years, including the complete official sources, retaining the original paragraph structure and the underlining of the legal citations, and modifying the contents to fully use the page size, giving better overviews of paragraphs.

It also includes:
  • Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) and Validation procedures
  • OJEPO Decisions, Fees & Reductions for PCT
  • PCT Annexes for EPO as RO / (S)ISA / IPEA / DO-EO
  • PCT Applicant Forms & EP Entry Form 1200
  • Examples of PCT-related EPO communications

This version reflects the legal status on 31 Oct 21, so it is the official version for EQE 2022 Main Exam & Pre-Exam. See this post for comments on which legal texts to use. Note that answers at the EQE based on EPG and EPO-PCT Guidelines should be supported by EPC Articles, Rules, GL/EPO Guidelines (IPREE R.22) citations.

New this year is the A4-format (210 x 297mm) created by Ignacio Lobato, which reduces the page count. We now offer two versions, both with black and white contents:
1) Portable Edition - 17mm thick, using thinner 50gr "bible paper" to reduce the thickness and the weight to 750gr.
2) Study Edition - using thicker 80gr paper, which is more suitable for intensive tabbing, annotating and highlighting. It is 26mm thick and weighs 1250 gr.

We have also extended the details on Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), added translation details to the EPC state overview, and extended the details on validation (including procedural flowcharts). Some of these EPO-specific details have been moved from the PCT Global Reference book.

The National Law & Validation book will no longer be produced. Access to www.epo.org during the exam will be available through External References, and online is the quickest way to find the required up-to-date National Law details. I have also moved the Validation details to EPO as a PCT Authority.

For more details, including the order links, and sample pages, see: fireballpatents.com/study-materials

Don't print WIPO Applicant's Guide for EQE 2022 - 2150 pages!

Every year, WIPO produces a printable version of the complete PCT Applicants Guide, including annexes for 154 States, specifically for the Pre- and Main Exams. Their 31 Oct 2021 version can be found here. It is 2150 pages and much of it will never be required at the exam. 

Providing a digital version has a low priority for EQE 2022, with resources being concentrated on improving the WISEflow exam interface. As noted in a recent post, online access will only be available to the www.epo.org domain during the exam. NO DIGITAL COPIES of other references will be available, and NO ONLINE ACCESS to other websites will be available. You also CANNOT OPEN any documents on your computer during the exam, so you will still need these PCT details on paper.

For many years, I have been making a cut-down PCT Global Reference to lighten the load and to save a few trees. Based on the syllabus, the Regulations, past papers and comments from Examination Committees, I have limited it to "only" 900 pages. There are also a lot of useful overviews from the WIPO/EPO website that WIPO did not include, so I have added about 300 extra pages, for a net saving of 850 pages. 

The latest edition is now available in two parts, and the links are here with my other study materialsThe downloadable version is expected in Jan 2022. There will be two versions of the PCT Global Reference (31 Oct 2021):
  • Two 16x23cm books (Part 1 & 2) for ordering. Both parts must be added separately to the basket. They comprise 1300 pages. After printing on thin bible paper, they weigh 1200g together, and are usually delivered in 10-14 days.
  • Two A4 files (Part 1 & 2) for download. They comprise 1300 pages and are provided free of charge for own printing. Please distribute to anyone who wants to use them for any non-commercial and unmodified use.
New this year is that I have taken out some of the EPO-specific materials to make room for more coverage of the most frequently used RO's and DO/EO's, and more Practical Advices. These EPO-specific materials have been added to the separate EPO as a PCT Authority book which has been updated to the 31 Oct 21 status. 

The National Law & Validation book will no longer be produced. Access to www.epo.org during the exam will be available through External References, and online is the quickest way to find the required up-to-date National Law details. I have also moved Validation details to the separate EPO as a PCT Authority book which has been updated to the 31 Oct 21 status.

Hopefully, a digital version will be available for EQE 2023, or the syllabus will be officially limited to reduce the number of States that could be asked about.

EQE 2022 - External References in WISEFlow and legal text versions

It was confirmed during the online EQE Tutor's Meeting in Oct 21 that access to www.epo.org will again be available during e-EQE 2022. Answers will again be accepted based upon texts accessible from www.epo.org which were valid on 31 Oct 2021, or valid on the day of the exam. 

It was also confirmed that NO DIGITAL COPIES of other references will be available, and NO ONLINE ACCESS to other websites will be available. You also CANNOT OPEN any documents on your computer during the exam. This may change in the future, but this currently has a low priority.

So, you will still need to print some references yourself before the exam. In particular, you will still need need PCT/WIPO references on paper, either by printing the official 2150 pages from the WIPO, or buying / printing our abbreviated and improved version: PCT Global Reference - Part (1) and (2).

No official calendars will be provided, so either print out the closure dates before the exam, or refer to the External References during the exam.

External References in WiseFlow

  • "External references" opens in a new tab to Home >Law & practice >Legal texts
  • Browser access to html and small pdf resources is limited to www.epo.org
  • Smaller pdf's, such as most OJEPO notices, can be opened. Large pdf resources, like Guidelines, cannot be opened. Each pdf opens in a new tab, and number of tabs is limited by screen size. No annotation or highlighting is possible - this is only available for exam pdf.
  • Browser shortcuts that work on my Win10: SHIFT+LEFT MOUSE (open in new tab), F5 (refresh - or use icon), ALT ← & ALT → (backward & forward - or use icon), SPACE or PAGE DOWN (scroll down), SHIFT+SPACE or PAGE UP (scroll up), HOME & END (top & bottom of page), jump to pdf bookmarks using toolbar icon, CTRL+SCROLL MOUSE (zoom - or use icon, or (i) options), CTRL+A, CTRL+C
  • Browser shortcuts that don't: CTRL+SHIFT+T, CTRL+T, CTRL+TAB (it just increases indents in your answer), RIGHT MOUSE (e.g. open in new tab), CTRL+E/F/K (no search function in html or pdf. Search is available for exam pdf only). CTRL+D, CTRL+P, CTRL+S.
  • Copy/paste is available into your answer, but that this DOES NOT get marks. Marks are available for APPLYING the law. Just copying in legal texts is no different to a  reference.
  • No browser bookmarks will be available or importable. There is no address bar, so urls are not visible and cannot be typed. Before the exam, get used to finding resources from the EPO home page, and practice using the html search. Note paths to critical references - these are pages that you often use in real life.
  • Test access during the mocks - some firewalls block access, so you may need to whitelist the whole www.epo.org domain. 

Key External References
Other External References (only in emergencies)
For details on official Guidelines versions, click READ MORE.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

1 Sep 2021 updates: PCT-App and Complete PCT Applicants Guide

In most years, official PCT documents are updated in July/August. However, this year, the WIPO has confirmed that few documents will be changed in 2021. There are no amendments to the PCT Regulations coming into force on 1 July 2021. 


  • possibly some changes to the PCT AIs and Forms later this year. 
  • 1 July 2022: The new WIPO Standard ST.26 for sequence listings enters into force, together with the many related amendments to the forms and documents.

So, on 1 July 2021, the following texts and references are (still) in force:

From WIPO:
  • PCT Treaty (Articles): 03 Oct 01
  • PCT Regulations (Rules): 01 Jul 20
  • AG-IP (Introduction to International Phase): 01 Jul 20
  • AG-NP (Introduction to National Phase): 6 Aug 20
  • AI (Administrative Instructions) Part 1 - 8 and Annexes B to G: 1 Jul 20
  • AI Annex A (Forms - RO / ISA / SISA / IB / IPEA): 1 Jul 20
  • AI Annex F (Electronic filing standard) Main Body & Appendices II - IV: 1 Jul 10
  • AI Annex F (Electronic filing standard) Appendix I: 1 Jul 21
  • RO-GL (RO Guidelines): 1 Jul 20
  • ISPE-GL (International Search & Preliminary Exam. Guidelines): 1 Jul 21
    • Added: ISA/IPEA may limit non-unity reasoning to minimum reasoning 10.04A 
    • Added: Examples of use of the minimum reasoning 10.59E – 10.59J
    • Note that ISPE GL's have many useful non-unity examples in Chapter 10
    • A welcome addition to 15.09, because applicants make major critical decisions based on international reports: In order to provide applicants and third parties with high levels of predictability for the potential outcomes of future national or regional prosecution, examiners should endeavor to prepare high quality international search reports and written opinions ... so that they can confidently be used by designated and elected Offices
  • PCT Fee Tables: 1 Sep 21
  • 75% reduction of PCT fees due to the EPO: 1 Jul 21
From EPO:
  • EPG (Euro-PCT Guide: PCT Procedure at EPO): 1 Jan 21
  • Fees for international applications: 1 Jan 21
  • EPO PCT-GL (Search & Examination at EPO as PCT Authority): Mar 2021

Data for specific States found in the Applicant Guide is continuously updated on the WIPO website, so always double check before relying on any state-specific info in real-life cases'

Although, there are few official changes, we have just completed many important updates

Complete PCT Applicant's Guide (1 Sep 2021)fireballpatents.com/study-materials/complete-pct-ag:

  • Many references from 2020 are still valid, so these have not been updated. 
  • The PCT states overviews have been combined into one main overview, including reservations and incompatibilities valid on 1 Sep 21
  • The PCT fees and Applicant/Office forms overview, valid on 1 Sep 21, have been included
  • The ISPE-GL (International Search & Preliminary Exam. Guidelines) has been updated to the 1 July 21 version
  • Requirements for Biological Deposits (Annex L) have been added 
  • Our legal citation index is included for AG-NP.

PCT.App (1 Sep 2021) - www.pctapp.net/en:

1. Integration of key Paris Convention articles.
Paris Convention articles are now available in the database in German and English to be annotated, incorporated and linked. Only the the most important articles for the PCT, including Article 4 PC (priority), have been included in the appropriate parts of PCT.App, annotated and cross-referenced with the rest of the PCT.

2. All comments and annotations referencing a State with a status date have correspondingly been checked and, where necessary, updated to legal status of 1 Sep 2021.

3. Many parts include comment boxes with a reference overview of other relevant parts. These have been updated to include new internal hyperlinks, so that they can be used online for quick navigation between parts just by clicking.

4. Where possible, provisions are referenced only in the most relevant sections. In some cases, comment boxes are used instead of including the full provisions. These include any additional comments and internal hyperlinks to the more relevant sections.

5. To allow finding answers more quickly, a convenient full-text search has been integrated into the online app and can now be accessed under the menu items "Navigation">"Search".

For more details on the PCT.App updates, click on READ MORE.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Indexed EPO-EPC Guidelines (1 Mar 21) now available to order

The EPO-EPC Guidelines for Examination (www.epo.org) covers EPO procedures during filing, search, examination, grant & opposition of EPC applications filed at EPO. Entry of PCT applications into the EP phase is also briefly covered.

This Indexed Version includes the complete official GL/EPO (EPO/EPC Guidelines), which are considered essential for exam candidates, and for professionals dealing with European patent applications in their daily life.

This version is valid from 1 Mar 2021 to 28 Feb 2022. It is the official version for EQE 2022 Main Exam & Pre-Exam. See this post for comments on which legal texts to use.

Note that answers at the EQE based on EPO-EPC Guidelines should be supported by EPC Articles, Rules, GL/EPO Guidelines (IPREE R.22) citations.

Our Indexed Version improves on the official version by:
  • grouping the index entries at the front and abbreviating entries to allow quick scanning
  • using page numbers to speed up getting to the correct page
  • indicating sections with significant changes in the last 3 years
  • including the complete official sources, and retaining the original paragraph structure and the underlining of the legal citations
  • modifying the contents to fully use the page size, giving better overviews of paragraphs
New this year is the A4-format (210 x 297mm) created by Ignacio Lobato, which reduces the page count from 990 pages to 488. We now offer two versions, both with black and white contents:
1) Portable Edition - 16mm thick, using thinner 50gr "bible paper" to reduce the thickness to 26mm and the weight to 800gr.
2) Study Edition - using thicker 80gr paper, which is more suitable for intensive tabbing, annotating and highlighting. It is 26mm thick and weighs 1250 gr.

For more details, including the order links, and sample pages, see: fireballpatents.com/study-materials

EQE 2022 - which legal texts to use?


17 Dec 21: this post has been updated here.

There are no details yet on which digital references will be allowed or available during the exam. So, you may still need to print your references just before the exam.

During EQE 2021, External References were available for digital reading and searching, but were limited to the EPO website only. These were the original versions of the references, and no annotation or highlighting was possible. Copy/paste was available from the
references. No details yet on what will be available in 2022.

Answers for the Main and Pre-Exam will be accepted based on legal texts valid on 31 Oct 2021 - REE (OJ SE2, 2019) Art. 13(1)(c), Rule 2 (this is still the old REE - it is likely to be updated this year. There was already an updated Instructions to Candidates - OJ 2021, A13).

I will be updating all my EQE-specific study materials to provide versions valid on 31 Oct 2021. Hopefully, many of the references will be made available digitally during the exam, so that this set can be minimised.  

The EPO-EPC and EPO-PCT Guidelines have moved to a new revision cycle, namely 1 March each year. If the EPO website is available again during the exams as an External Reference, the 1 Mar 2022 versions will be the versions in force and available digitally. The 1 Mar 2021 versions will only be
available on-line in the EPO-EPC Guidelines Archive and EPO-PCT Guidelines Archive as PDF's.

During EQE 2021, the exam committees were pragmatic and flexible about what they would accept to support an answer - either the official versions (valid on 31 Oct before the exam), or newer versions available digitally through External References.

General recommended:
  • For EQE 20xx, use the legal texts and documents valid on 31 Oct 20xx-1
  • As a practicing (trainee) attorney, you should always be aware of the most up-to-date materials. If you use versions made available after 31 Oct 20xx-1 to answer questions, you will not be penalised. 
  • But be pragmatic and don't just print out a lot of books or buy new ones. It is better to update older versions yourself by going through the changes in detail. The EPO provides some track changes versions and the WIPO usually uses change bars.
  • Only transfer a lot of notes and annotations to a new version if you are using very old materials.
  • If you do not use an "official version" during the exam, make a note once in each EQE exam of the Guidelines version you use. It is not required, but it makes it easier for the marker.
Summary for Main and Pre-Exam EQE 2022: 
  • They will officially accept answers based on legal texts & documents in force on 31 Oct 2021
  • They will also accept answers based on legal texts & documents in force after 31 Oct 2021 (including any updated EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines version 1 Mar 22)
  • Recommended for EQE 2022:
    • look through the most important EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines changes in Feb 2022 - the EPO usually provides a track changes version
    • many of these changes will be based on Case Law, OJ EPO notices and practice changes that were already known in 2021, but missed the update one year earlier. 
    • update the 1 Mar 2021 versions of the Guidelines yourself

CLICK BELOW for the background and explanations: 

EQE 2022 - preparation and top bugs that need to be fixed

Update 21 Jun 21: I have also made some of these points in epi Information 02/21
EQE 2022 has been announced (OJ 2021, A44), and it has been confirmed that the EQE will be online, it may be taken at any suitable location, and WISEflow will be used again. The exams will take place over two weeks: 
  • Tu 08 Mar 22 - D Exam / Th 10 Mar - A Exam
  • Tu 15 Mar 22 - B Exam / Th 17 Mar - C Exam / Fri 18 Mar - Pre-Exam
No details yet on which other software will be used or whether changes will be made in the room and workspace restrictions. But based on EQE 2021, taking an exam is likely to require: 
  • an exam browser, such as LockDown Browser
  • continuous AI-assisted camera and sound invigilation, so you must be visible in the webcam field of view for long periods
  • online invigilation, such as Zendesk

So, EQE 2022 candidates can already plan ahead:

  • Keep an eye on the EPO’s EQE pages for updated details: EPO e-EQE page, EQE Notices & Downloads, EQE FAQ's
    • don't read through all the details from EQE 2021 - much of the info was provisional, a lot is repeated, and it is likely to change or be consolidated
  • At least one mock should be expected in Jan / Feb. Reserve the time and take part - you must use these opportunities to test your system, and to check for individual problems with your hardware/ software
  • Think digital for taking the exam: 
    • a key skill is now typing speed. Take an online typing course and get a comfortable keyboard / mouse
    • become less dependent on paper. Get comfortable reading work documents electronically, especially PDF.
  • Look for resources that support working digitally
    • websites that allow questions to be viewed and answered digitally, such as Practice EQE
    • EPC and PCT books which are digital – a few, like EPC.App and PCT.App can even be annotated digitally and printed. 
  • But be prepared to have your references availableon paper. During EQE 2021, access was provided to the electronic resources on the EPO website only, but it is not yet clear what will be available in 2022.

There were many issues in 2021 with the new exam platform. These are my top bugs that must be fixed for EQE 2022:

  • Digital highlighting of exam pages
    • this was not available at all for exam pages. Some highlighting was possible for the own answer.
    • it is essential when reading off a screen to be able to keep your place, to note things you have used and/or things you need to use
    • candidates should not be wasting their time copying large parts of the exam to their answer just to apply highlighting
  • Copy/paste into the answer without losing formatting
    • copy/paste was possible, but some or all formatting was often lost,
    • this was especially poor with Apple computers
    • candidates should not be wasting their time reformat excerpts
  • Side-by-side previewing of exam pages, allowing correct copy/paste and highlighting
    • copy/paste was only available between different tabs
    • candidates should be able to answer in the same way that they are used to when working digitally
  • Too-limited digital External References during the exam
    • the EPO website was available, with searching
    • this must be extended to include WIPO to avoid every candidate printing out 2000 pages of the PCT Applicant’s Guide
  • Zendesk automatically logging out during the exam
    • candidates had to keep checking every 20 mins and logging back in
    • this should not be necessary.
  • Camera and microphone, once tested, should function throughout the exam
    • many candidates were interrupted by Zendesk during the exam because LockDown Browser had disabled their webcam. the camera tested during startup of LockDown Browser should not be disabled.
    • there should be an automatic warning if the camera and/or microphone is unexpectedly not working

Other improvements needed for EQE 2022:

  • lnclude an optional "digital exam desktop"
    • so that candidates can prepare PDF's and upload them for use during the exam
    • some EPC/PCT books are already digital, and many recommended EPO / WIPO references are only available digitally 
    • allow searchable text of such PDF's, as you have in real-life, for all digital references. Being able to search broadly does not help as much as you think. Only with knowledge can you search quickly and precisely to pick out what you need.
  • Find a more effective way of communicating with candidates than e-mail
    • where follow-up questions can be posted. For example, a forum, Twitter, or Telegram chat groups 
    • be more open about how the exams will be adapted to the platform
  • Provide a technical helpdesk and forum 
    • to solve network and access problems well before the exam
    • especially for company networks and laptops, where candidates will not have Administrator rights.
    • run an early beta test using a large number of external candidates and/or tutors to iron out the bugs
  • Don't make it harder than it needs to be for those with En/Fr/Ge as a 2nd language. 
    • Since 2017, an extra 30 mins was added to each Main Exam so that mainly non-native speakers would have more time. But this is no longer enforced, and it is clear from the 2021 B and C Exams that this time has just been absorbed by more material. 
    • So, have a non-native review team for each exam from the countries who have a good language level, but not the highest. Sorry - no Dutch, Swedish or Danish etc. doing the English :-). They also need to test whether the exams can be made in time.
  • For exams that are split, like the C Exam, subject-matter must be properly separated between parts
    • The length of the current exams can be reduced by removing overlap and repetition. For example: 
      • A Exam: reduce subject-matter, focus mainly on independent claims, and provide less prior art.
      • B Exam is not realistic with client giving you claims. Go back to the old format, reduce subject-matter, only include a few claims, and provide less prior art.
      • C Exam has much repetition in attacks. Include fewer claims, and provide a lot fewer documents.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

epi online conference - Modernising the EQE - 21 June

8 Jun 21: Forum link added. The epi recently published their discussion paper on proposed changes to the EQE from 2024. See separate post for my comments. It is also possible to post comments on epi -learning on-line forum (open to all).

On 21 June 1300-1600, epi is holding an online conference. We want a broad perspective from all EPC states, so please join and make your opinion heard. Non epi members are also invited to register and participate.

Conference on Modernising the EQE to better test “fitness-to-practise”


Starts: 21.06.2021   13.00hrs
Ends: 21.06.2021   16.00hrs


Online conference


Moving to a digital testing environment necessitates adaptation of the EQE but also presents an opportunity to review whether the EQE is testing the skills and knowledge required by the European patent attorney of today. The aim of the conference is to explore how to modernise the EQE to better test whether a candidate is ready to practise as an EPA and to help candidates develop the skills and knowledge needed to practise. During the conference, the following topics will be explored: 

  • the motivation for change 
  • the essential skills and knowledge of an EPA, 
  • modernising the structure and timeline of the examination, and 
  • any impact on national examinations and other national considerations. 

Target group

The conference is aimed at delegates who are involved in training EPAs, including training providers, tutors, mentors and employers as well as those who have an interest in maintaining a high standard of training, including professional organisations and patent offices.

Technical requirements

In order to attend the online conference participants need a computer with an internet browser and a high-speed broadband internet connection. For the conference, epi uses Zoom. Security settings on local Firewalls need to be checked. 

To access to the conference epi sends out a link shortly before the conference.


Please note that despite the conference participation being free of charge, the section on billing information in the registration form is mandatory. Unfortunately it is not possible for us to remove that section at the moment.

Working language



For further information, please contact Jacqueline  Kalbe: education@patentepi.org

Minimum number of participants

*If the minimum number of participants was not reached by the registration deadline, the seminar will be cancelled. In this case the epi will inform you immediately.

Registration deadline

Registration is open until 14.06.2021. The order of receipt by epi will determine the attendance in case of over-subscription.

(The links below may not work. Alternatively click on link at the bottom of the page or try this one).

 Registration epi member/student

Sunday, April 18, 2021

e-EQE – epi discussion paper - comments

Update 21 Jun 21: I have also made some of these points in epi Information 02/21
8 Jun 21: forum link added.
The epi recently published their discussion paper on proposed changes to the EQE from 2024. See below for some comments, following on from my earlier comments on the future of the EQE.  It is also possible to discuss using the epi-learning forum (open to all).

My conclusions: 
  • Some good ideas, like allowing an earlier start of learning, but I miss any proposals to improve the organisation. 
  • I miss a proposal for permanent education - the EQE tests whether a small number of representatives are fit to practice at that moment. 
  • I hear more and more candidates choosing to follow a law degree instead of the EQE because of the unpredictability of passing. Having everything modular will help prevent this getting larger.
    • But we also need a clear syllabus for each part, transparent marking and a proper way to address the concerns of the average non-native speakers.
  • Infringement has to be added - it is an essential part of being a patent attorney.
My comments:

1. Is the current EQE adequately testing the “fit to practice” criterion? - p.1
  • Some Exam Papers are ... jigsaw puzzles ... rather than testing real skills ...
    • It is not a problem if questions are designed to have one answer - the legal questions are set up like this. Having small puzzles that fit together, like the current Pre-Exam - claim analysis and D2 does mean that you can feel when you are on the right path.
    • However, the general advice to pass currently is to not think too much and give the answer in the Guidelines because alternatives are almost never accepted, even if properly argued. Perhaps that way that the questions are structured needs to be clarified - instead of asking, is it novel/inventive/extension etc, you can ask whether the EPO will object (the Guidelines answer) - candidates should know what will happen during proceedings.
    • The biggest current "puzzle" is the C exam - it is completely out of control (not just this year). There are too many different documents and the pieces you need are not always in the most likely places. Way too long, too many documents, with a ridiculous amount of detail require for argumentation. 
    • The B exam is now going the same way. 
  • All papers should start with 0 marks, and award marks for correct parts. A and B suffer the most because they are negatively marked - you start with 100 marks, but lose marks for each deviation from the expected answer. The problem is that by misreading or misunderstanding a couple of things, you end up running out of materials to use. There is a randomness to passing - if you are on the same wavelength, you pass. If not, you fail. But if you retake it a year later, then you can pass without preparing any differently.
  • Marking of the practical papers should always consider whether a mistake would be correctable in real-life 
      • Why should you be afraid for A of submitting a non-novel claim or non-inventive claim? As the argumentation supplied tends to be brief for A (as it reflects the brief argumentation typically included in a patent application), you should not lose so many marks if a dependent claim is what they wanted. There should be no marks lost for extending a feature beyond the scope of the client's letter, for example.
      • For B, where argumentation is required, the reasoning can be judged better for possibly having a non-novel or non-inventive claim. There should be no marks lost for not abandoning scope based on an instruction by the client if you think it is patentable (and argue this). 
      • Why is matching EVERY feature and correctly defining closest prior art in C such an issue? For an opposition, the main thing is to attack all the claims, get all the documents in, and argue the non-trivial aspects of the feature matching and inventive step. You would not write an opposition like that.
  • Methodology courses - p.1, p.2
    • I may be a little biased ;-), but I am not sure why it is a goal to get rid of these. Most of the methodology courses are based on reverse engineering and save candidates a lot of time that they can use for actually practicing papers. I don't think these will disappear, even with a more modular exam and shorter pieces. 
    • These are currently "needed" because the exams are much too long (so very difficult to do in the time available, especially for non-native speakers), there is no official info about what is to be tested, how the papers should be made, or how they should be marked. The Examiners' Reports are not easy to read and deliberately leave out a lot of details on alternatives that were accepted, or the exact marking. Even if candidates file an appeal, they will never see the details of their marking to see where they lost marks. 
    • If there are tricks that is being taught to pass with little preparation, obviously this should be prevented. But I don't consider pointing out where marks are awarded and how to score those marks as a trick - all marks count equally to the scoring, and candidates should always focus on their strengths and understand what is required. I don't see weak candidates passing just through methodology - more that there are a lot of well-prepared candidates who fail because they do not know how to show their working properly within the time available. Hardly anyone ever gets about 80 marks for certain exams.
    • I agree that it should not be necessary to follow such a course to pass. The committees and boards can influence this already => a clear syllabus that they stick to, openness about the marking and what is expected, using similar formats and styles each year, announcing new subjects to be tested or changes to the marking in advance, publishing several alternatives that were accepted, allowed appealing candidates to see exactly where they lost marks etc.
  • Practical training
    • This varies greatly, depending on where you work and the opportunities available - there should be more guidance on what you should be doing and some help with this. 
    • I agree that that it is better to prepare earlier and not make exam participation dependent on a fixed number of years - for example, a lack of drafting and amendment experience can be compensated by doing more old exams to learn the skills needed. You need the knowledge as early as possible.
  • Suggestion - allow qualified attorneys, lawyers, employees, formalities officers etc. to also sit the modules (without overwriting their scores) to allow them to stay up to date in a structured way. This could already be done for the Pre-Exam (no consequence - they just get marks separately for legal and claim analysis).