Thursday, October 15, 2020

Predicting what the e-EQE will look like

[Updated 20.10.20] The UK PEB exams (this week) are the blueprint for e-EQE. Hopefully things run smoothly, and there are few IT issues. 
Based on PEBX detailed info and EPO e- EQE FAQ's, I have tried to fill in some unknowns. I am not in the organization, and have no insider tips, so treat this as my best guess. It will become clearer in the next months, so watch the EPO and epi websites carefully for more official details. EQE & PEB posts are also at The Yellow Sheet

If the EQE system is close to this, it is good news. The IT challenges for the organization seem manageable, so it is almost certain that e-EQE 2021 can go ahead.  
The bad news is the additional effort for candidates to get everything ready, and to become familiar with the digital tools and online editing. The test system is planned for Jan 2021 - if at least one mock exam can be tried, it will ease a lot of concerns.
Also, with any new processes, it may be difficult to distinguish between accidental rule breaches (loss of webcam signal, router reset, pc crash, internet failure) and deliberate ones. In such a case, candidates should collect as much direct evidence as possible to support their case. The PEB provides an email address to apply for Special Consideration by 12 noon on the day following the exam. No details yet on how the EQE will deal with this. 

1. Anywhere suitable - at home or work 

  • PEB invigilation was by video conferencing (Zoom) At home, and by a designated contact at work. Each contact was registered, and had to declare (potential) conflicts of interest. PEB allowed more than one candidate per contact. 
  • EQE has not clarified yet how they invigilate.
2. Hardware 

  • PEB allowed a computer with one physical screen only. Either a laptop (no tablet), a PC with an office-standard monitor, or a laptop (screen off) with one external office-standard monitor. 
  • EQE will also limit to one physical screen only.
  • Broadband internet connection required for whole exam. 
  • PEB only required a webcam for those at home - for initial sweep of desk & room (before exam), to check photo-ID (they also had copies of photo-ID's), and so that the invigilator can see you facing your screen during the exam. PEB allowed a built-in laptop webcam to be used. 
  • PEB allowed full printing to a printer in same room. 
  • EQE has said that you will only be able to print "parts" before the exam start - consideration will be given to ensuring the confidentiality of the questions while enabling candidates to work comfortably and ergonomically. Vague, but it sounds like they are modifying the papers to be more than just a single PDF document. My guess is that at least some drawings, annexes and the calendars will be printable. But this also makes them easier to take digitally. For comparison, the full EQE 2019 lengths were: Pre-Exam: 30p, A: 13p, B: 18p, C: 37p, D: 14p

3. Software

  • PEB used a browser-based PEBX web portal to log in, to indicate that that you are starting, to digitally sign a declaration that you will not cheat, to download the paper PDF and a Word template for answers, and to allow a PDF answer to be uploaded up to the end of the exam. PEB required Word, a PDF viewer & PDF printer.
  • EQE indicates a text editor will be provided in a locked browser window. The papers will be shown in a PDF viewer. Copy/paste will be available of text from the exam, or within your own answer. This seems similar to the Computer-Based (CB) EQE software used before, with browser-based text editor (left) and PDF viewer (right).
  • EQE indicates Windows 7 or MacOS/X10.10, or higher with Administrator rights.
  • PEB did not require Zoom to be installed - they used a browser version started from PEBX. I recommend installing the free desktop application anyway - if there is a problem, you can paste the link into Zoom itself.
  • Some common problems with PEBX, such as the possibility that answers from an earlier test could be accidentally uploaded during the exam if the candidate had not deleted them. Also possible: If you see an error message that indicates your file has not uploaded, you may need to log out of the PEBX system and log back in and try uploading your answer document again. There is a View Document button which allows you to see what you have uploaded. 
  • EQE will not require manual uploading (it uses online auto save), but no details on verification of what has been uploaded or whether you can make a copy/print of your own answers during the exam.

4. Timing

  • PEB provided extra time for screen breaks (5 mins every hour), printing, scanning & uploading. So, 3 hrs 30m for a 3 hr exam, 4 hrs 40m for a 4 hr exam, 5hrs 45m for a 5hr exam. 
  • PEB exam times were: 1000-1330, 1400-1730, 1000-1440 or 1000-1545. EQE times have not yet been announced, but the exams are now divided over 5 days.
  • PEB screen breaks were not enforced, and candidates were allowed to decide when to upload their answer, but upload was no longer possible when exam ended. 
  • EQE will use a text editor in a locked browser - no manual uploading required. No details yet on what happens at the end - the CB EQE software just stopped accepting inputs when the exam ended.
CLICK BELOW FOR MORE [Updated 20.10.20]

Saturday, September 19, 2020

PCT.App - major update. Sep 2020 edition is now 58 pages shorter. Also in GERMAN.

Last year, we introduced the first version of my PCT legal reference on the IP.appify platform. After months of evaluation and feedback from many users, we have optimised the layout for printing. Although multiple clickable references and repeating provisions verbatim are useful online for quick navigation, they are often distracting in the print version, and made the paper book longer than it needs to be:

  • Repeated side comments visible within one provision have been removed. The first reference only has been retained. So it may be necessary to look up or down for the relevant information.
  • Longer side comments have been consolidated or moved to inline comment boxes
  • Instead of repeating provisions verbatim, references to other sections have been included. This may mean that you need to use the index at the front if you are looking for the full recitation of a provision (electronically, there is always a clickable link to the provision text).
  • Many sections now also begin with a "More details found elsewhere in this book" comment box to help navigation

Additional changes include:

  • All the PCT legal changes of the legal changes of 1 July 2020 have been incorporated, including: R. 82quater.2, R. 26quater, R. 20.5bis, R. 20.8(a-bis), R. 20.8(b-bis), R. 40bis, R. 96.2, R. 71.1, R. 94.1
  • Section 1.5: Overview added of all currently valid reservations (Articles and Rules) 
  • Sections 2.10.1 and 2.10.2 amended to more clearly divide between procedural and substantive priority requirements to reduce the overlap
  • Section 3.4: Overviews added and updated for missing parts & elements 
  • Section 9.1: Moved table info to other boxes, and split communications to make them consistent with the rest. Table deleted to reduce length and improve readability.
  • Section 12.10: Excusing delay and general possibilities for excuse, tidied up and references added to other sections. 
  • Correction of known errors: 

  • R. 2.4 was incorrectly cited in several places as legal basis for 12m priority period. Legally, this is incorrect - it is actually R. 4C(1) PC (Paris Convention). R. 2.4 was added in 1 Apr 2007 to merely clarify that "priority period" should be interpreted according to A. 4 PC - PCT/R/WG/7/3, Annex I, p.2. So, the priority period is NOT a "Time limit fixed in Treaty" and NOT a "Time limit fixed in Regulations". R.2.4 is only relevant for R.26bis, R. 49ter (restoration calculation).
  • Amended comments in A. 48(1), (2) regarding availability in international and/or national phases.
  • An overview of main changes is available here. I have also copied them below. It can be ordered on 24x17cm paper from Amazon (UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, US, CA, JP) on 90 gr paper (3.8cm thick). Or on 50gr paper (2.1cm thick) from boekenbestellen.nl. The online version is available at www.epcapp.net.

    Till Andlauer has been busy translating everything into German - that will be available in the coming days.

    EQE 2021 - which legal texts to use?

    ** 20 Sep 20: updated to clarify  differences with Pre-Exam,  and to add new Guidelines cycle **
    To remove one worry for candidates, answers for the Main Exam will be accepted based on legal texts valid on 31 Oct 2019 (official date for EQE 2020) and/or 31 Oct 2020 (official date for EQE 2021). 

    This is a welcome flexibility, but candidates still need to choose what to use and what to update. This has always been an issue, but it will be more complicated this year. I get asked this often 😕, so I will try and explain it. See also this earlier post regarding the situation for EQE 2020.

    I will be updating all my EQE-specific study materials to provide versions valid on 31 Oct 2020.  If new EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines do appear, then I will also make new versions available at the end of Nov 2020. However, based on the EPO announcements and SACEPO minutes, it looks like the Guidelines will move to a new revision cycle from 2021, namely 1 March. 

    General recommendations:
    • Don't worry too much - because "recent changes" are blurred, the exam committees are pragmatic and flexible about what they accept in the answer - either the official versions for that exam, or newer ones. Very little of the exam anyway is based on such changes.
    • For EQE 20xx, use the legal texts and documents valid on 31 Oct 20xx-1
      • but also use the latest version of the Guidelines available in 20xx-1. As a practicing 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. In some cases, it may match the 31 Oct 20xx-1 materials more closely.
    • 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 paper of the Guidelines version you use. It is not required, but it makes it easier for the marker.
    Summary for Main Exam EQE 2021:
    • They will officially accept answers based on legal texts & documents in force on:
      • 31 Oct 2019 (including EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines version 1 Nov 2018)
      • 31 Oct 2020 (including EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines version 1 Nov 2019)
    • They will also accept answers based on legal texts & documents in force:
      • after 31 Oct 2020 (including any updated EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines version 1 Nov 2020, if available)
    • Recommended for EQE 2021, use the legal texts and documents valid on 31 Oct 2020,
      • and the latest version of the EPO & EPO-PCT Guidelines available (1 Nov 2020 if available, or 1 Nov 2019). Don't use the earlier versions.

    See below for the background and explanations:

    Sunday, May 24, 2020

    Combined AB papers & suggested papers for practice

    I have been asked by a couple of people to go through the list again, so see below for the update of this post from Dec 2018. It has not changed much (removed A EM 2011), but I have added some general guidance, as well as a list of not-recommended papers.

    With so few combined technology papers, you need to do some of the older papers to practice, including papers in the technology that you are least comfortable with. 

    In general: 
    • Look for papers that are "C-like" - requiring a more general technical knowledge
    • Past papers relied on candidates knowing certain basic facts in that technology. Physics / chemistry / biology that you knew in school but have forgotten - e.g. chlorine is a halogen, thermoplastics can be softened by heat, moment = force x distance, chemical compounds can have several names. In the current papers, all those facts are provided, either by the client or in the prior art. For past papers, you may have to look these things up to determine genus/species relationships, differences (important for novelty), effects (important for inventive step). 
    • EM papers: can derive effect (function) from structure and vice-versa. A feature is usually used to distinguish from prior art - comparing drawings is fastest way to see this. Functional claims are often expected, often close to a "result to be achieved". Enablement issues are very rare. Skilled person can use some extrapolation => similar structures provide similar effects, similar effects imply similar structures. The result of a process can usually be predicted, so claiming of product-by-process is very rare. Skilled person can often fill in a lot of gaps - for example, claims are much broader than specific examples in description.
    • CH papers: effects are supported by experimental data. Ranges and range values are used as distinguishing features, but just a different value may not be enough (a diiferent effect associated with this value is evidence of novelty). Effect (function) is not derivable from structure. Structure is not derivable from effect (function). Skilled person cannot use extrapolation based on structure. Some very narrow extrapolation based on effects, but teachings are followed very exactly. Enablement is often an issue. The result of a process cannot be predicted, so claiming of product-by-process is frequent where the product cannot be claimed structurally. Skilled person cannot fill in gaps - claims find exact support in description. It was expected to turn the whole letter from the client (in A) into a part of the description (no longer required). Unity was often an issue (has not been tested in combined papers, but a simple case could be covered). Markush claims were expected (not to be expected in the combined papers)
    • Avoid past EM papers that are based around finding a claim that covers a lot of embodiments. Claim language was not given - you were expected to provide intermediate generalisations yourself - e.g. screw, nail, glue => generalise to "fixing means".

    Monday, May 11, 2020

    Your chance to help with EQE 2021

    Every year, the epi asks for volunteers for the EQE committees - as expected they need more help for EQE 2021. New members are mainly needed to mark papers - after approx. 2 years, you may be asked to help draft papers. The Official notice and application form is here under Examination Committees. Some highlights:

    • EB expects more candidates than usual in 2021, and would therefore appreciate receiving a large number of applications to guarantee a fair marking of papers 
    • You can indicate your paper preference
    • For 2021-2022 term, applications need to be received by June 9, 2020
    • Membership of epi and successful completion of EQE is required
    • For marking, a minimum commitment of 120 hours per year, including a minimum of four days of meetings
    • Also expected to help with testing and checking of new papers, bench marking or acting as an EQE official, which might require further or different time commitments. These tasks are distributed fairly among members.
    • Volunteer, so no remuneration. But travel expenses are reimbursed by epi.
    • In particular for this year: those who can can mark papers in German or French
    • Appointment is for at least 2 years

    Wednesday, April 22, 2020

    EQE 2020 officially cancelled, focus on EQE 2021, e-EQE 2022

    After much speculation, the EQE Supervisory Board has decided to officially cancel EQE 2020. It was not unexpected - "for the first time in xxxx years, yyyy has been cancelled" has become a frequent headline this year.
    The decision is available here as well as a communication providing more details.

    Some comments:
    • "composed of an equal number of representatives of the EPO and the epi" - stresses that it is a joint EPO/epi exam. That saves me having to comment on many blog comments :-)
    • "the nearly 3.000 people that participate and are involved in the organisation of the Exams" - based on last year's figures, approx. 900 Pre-Exam, 1700 Main Exam candidates, 400 organizers/invigilators.
    • "actively discussing solutions ... strike the right balance between the legitimate expectations of candidates for the 2020 exams and .... health and safety" - thanks to those involved for considering all the options. It is an extraordinarily complex issue to deal with in difficult times, as they also have to consider the future impact of any decisions.
    • "the EPO and the epi need to ensure adequate health and safety conditions" - at the moment, there is no agreement yet on what precaution are adequate, but this should develop in the next months as the lockdowns are eased.
    • "the EPO and the epi need to guarantee the same basic conditions for candidates from all EPO member states, i.e. that they can all travel to one of the exam venues" - this seems like a big challenge, but could be eased by having more local exam venues. 
    • "the EPO and the epi need to ... avoid jeopardizing the EQE 2021" -  yes, this is a higher priority, and will already require a huge effort.
    • ** to see comments above 200, scroll to last comment and click Load more ... **

    Wednesday, April 1, 2020

    EQE2020 in September (if possible)?

    Glad to see that the epi just posted a general update including a note about the postponement, as well as a link to the letter from the epi President to the EPO.
    It highlights the desire by the epi to have the EQE go ahead, as well as acknowledging many of the problems that would need to be solved.

    "epi letter to the EPO regarding the EQE cancellation
    You are no doubt aware that the March EQE session was cancelled, and that it is planned to organise a postponed session in September, if possible. In this regard, the Presidium has decided to send a letter to the President of the EPO, which is published here."

    The purpose of the letter was to request the EPO's support so that every possible resource available in the EPO can be used to organise a postponed EQE 2020 - in particular, the finding of suitable locations at suitable dates, the registration of candidates, the invigilation, and above all the marking process. They note that the availability of additional marking capacity among epi members may be limited when the time line is shifted.

    It also mentioned:
    • ... no firm plans can be made until it is sufficiently certain that the epidemic will be under control, and trusts that every possible option is being explored.
    • The ideal situation would be one where the postponed 2020 EQE is organised in such a way that the results are available by end October 2020, in time for the candidates to catch up with the normal timeline. Candidates who failed one or more papers of the main EQE could still register for the 2021 EQE and follow the special trainings for re-sitters. 
    • We trust that the Supervisory Board will take all necessary decisions to implement exceptions in order to make that happen. Exceptions one might consider encompass abbreviated registration periods for re-sitters. Another possible exception is to skip the pre-examination. In view of Article 11(7) REE, it would not be necessary to organise a pre-examination, but if one is organised, the candidates who passed the pre­-examination would still have time to register for the 2021 EQE and follow the usual trainings.
    • At the same time, the EQE 2021 should be prepared in parallel and should not be put at risk.

    Saturday, March 7, 2020

    EQE-disaster recovery plan

    What a nightmare - as far as I know, the EQE has never been cancelled. For those who were ready to take the exam, it feels like the end of the world.
    I saw a lot of negative comments about the EPO, but you shouldn't blame the messenger. The Boards are comprised equally of EPO and epi members, and they were working tirelessly until the last moment to find some way to let it go ahead.
    Take some time off now: relax in the weekends, do other things, and try to think of positive things you can do. You can certainly take off the days that you were supposed be doing exams, and do some of the things that you postponed due to your intense study schedule.
    Prepare your 4-6 week intensive schedule: if it is rescheduled, they should give you 4-6 weeks notice (a reasonable time to book flights/hotels). If you were ready for the exam in 2 weeks time, you can be ready again.
    Decide on your low-level schedule: For some people, it may be a good idea to continue studying at some level:

    • Organise your legal materials a little better (a lot of the current legal reference books started life as someone's well-organised EQE notes). 
    • Use your legal knowledge more in your daily work (see if a colleague needs help with an office action or opposition, give a presentation to your office, check whether your office procedures meet "all due care", teach subjects to trainees, write a legal article). 
    • Regularly do papers, and legal questions, even ones you have already done
    • Regularly do A and DII - theses are the two papers that are the closest to real life, and directly benefit your practical skills. For exam preparation, you can never do enough of these papers. And for A, try some of the other technology papers as well.
    • See the great initiative here on LinkedIn for refresher workshops

    Think about other improvements: ... and don't forget your physical/mental well-being

    • for example, read this LinkedIn post about meditation & exercise
    • discuss any issues and worries with other candidates, tutors, etc
    • be prepared not to attend any exams (or work) if you are sick or may be contagious

    Prepare for three scenarios:
    I have no insider information, but I know something about how the exam is organised. There is only one exam for each paper, so they cannot hold the same paper on different days or at different times. But they could try to arrange the papers in different weeks, for example, or at least organise papers with the most preparation for candidates = Pre-Exam & Paper D.
    1) Rescheduling for May/June July/August
    Earlier than that seems unlikely. A lot of the cancellations and closures are official reactions to increases in cases, but each country has a different philosophy. So the earliest would be about 4-6 weeks after there is a continuous decline in cases (earliest measurable in April). Registration deadlines for EQE 2021 may need to be postponed.
    Updated (21/03/20): May/June seems unlikely now. Normally, having exams during the summer would be impossible to arrange, but these are not normal times.
    Updated (1/4/20): September seems to be being considered - see separate post
    2) Rescheduling for September/October
    This seems to be most likely if they are to reschedule. But this may conflict with some national exams, so maybe you have to change the order of preparation. They may have to delay EQE 2021 as well to get everything to fit.
    Update (1/4/20): at least Registration deadlines for EQE 2021 will need to be postponed.
    3) No Exam in 2020, wait for EQE 2021
    I hope not. But even for EQE 2021 to go ahead with some certainty, they will already need to consider a lot of changes and back-up plans. For example: more online sitting of exams, moving the EQE to May each year, having max. 50 people per room, using testing locations outside big cities (plenty of places in central Europe), change system to fewer exams to pass, offer Pre-Exam more frequently, shorter exams
    Be prepared for more inconvenience in the future:
    All international events, meetings, exams etc will have to have a plan for the future to reduce risk from any virus, not just Corona COVID-19, and have an emergency plan. For example: instructing people not to travel / attend if you are sick, having a policy for visibly sick people = refused access or removed or given a mask or moved to a separate room, temperature measurement, providing masks / soaps / handgels for more cleaning, disinfecting rooms, disinfecting answer papers, no handshaking (like in hospitals) etc.

    Sunday, February 23, 2020

    Possible questions on "recent" legal changes - EQE 2020

    The law being tested at EQE 2020 is theoretically the status on 31 Oct 2019. Unless specified otherwise, "today" on the exam is the actual day of the exam (16 or 17 Mar 2020), so the law of 31 Oct 2019 should be applied to these situations. In particular, fee amounts valid on this date should be used when specifically required to answer a question.

    Make sure your legal references are up-to-date and you are aware of recent changes. See here for my overview of recent relevant EPC changes and PCT changes. I have also included my comments about whether a question is likely or not - I have no insider knowledge, it is based on experience with previous exams.

    I have limited the list to 2018 & 2019 - anything before 2018 will be included in your legal references.  There is usually one DI question (or an aspect of DII), and at least one Pre-exam Legal Question, directed to a "new" subject or a "recent" legal change. As each exam takes up to 2 years to make, these may not seem new or recent to you. For example, in DII 2019, G1/15 was tested for the first time.  The decision by the Enlarged Board in that case was taken on 29 Nov 16, and it was published in the OJ EPO in Sep 2017.

    The EPO-PCT Guidelines were added to the official list of EQE texts about 2 years ago. Although most of the contents are found in other references, like the Euro-PCT Guide or the Applicants Guide IP, the Examination Committee prefers the EPO-PCT Guidelines to be cited. DI 2019 was the first exam where a reference (or an equivalent) was expected for full points.
     Subjects that could be asked include:
    -- PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway) - E-III, 1 - 3
    -- PCT-Direct - A-IV, 1 and B-IV, 1.2

    So, familiarise yourself with the changes from 2018 and 2019, and the contents of the EPO-PCT Guidelines. I also make an indexed version - it can be ordered as part of my EPO as a PCT Authority book.

    Good luck!

    Wednesday, February 19, 2020

    Jetzt neu: indizierte EPÜ-Richtlinien des EPA – 1 Nov. 2019 auf Deutsch

    Thanks to Dr. Marc Loschonsky for getting this ready - the 1 Nov 2019 version of our Indexed Guidelines is now available to order in German

    Sorry it is late for EQE 2020 - it is a lot of work to get the first version ready. In future years, we expect it to be ready about the same time as the English version.

    It is also suitable for daily life, and for those studying for EQE 2021 (Main Exam or Pre-Exam).

    It is 3.2cm x 16x23cm pages, 982 pages, 930g, and printed on the thin 50-gr bible paper.