Case Law of the EPO Boards of Appeal Released

Thanks to correspondent Paul Cole of Lucas &Co. for sending us the below notice.

Students of patent law will welcome the 7th edition of this well-known compilation which went live on the EPO website on 4th October. It is now available both online in HTML here and in hardback, but not yet as a pdf. Such works grow with time: the 5th (2006) edition ran to some 746 pages including the index, the 7th (2010) edition was of 1091 pages and the present edition is of some 1200 pages.

A foreword by Wim van der Eijk, Chairman of the Enlarged Board, records that the first appeal decision, J 2/78, issued on 1 March 1979 and was followed in 1981 by 16 technical appeal decisions. The number of technical appeals has grown from 8 in 1980 to 2659 in 2012. It is recorded that over the past 34 years the boards of appeal have settled more than 34 000 cases and that more than 90 decisions or opinions of the Enlarged Board covering legal points of fundamental importance have been handed down.

Within a few days of publication a detailed review of a work of this length and complexity is not feasible. Instead its publication provides an opportunity to celebrate the work of the EPO Appeal Boards as a whole. Their decisions are recorded in a database which has been running in its present form for some two years and in which all decisions from J 2/78 to date are freely available for download. There are both basic and advanced search masks, the latter (http://www.epo.org/law-practice/case-law-appeals/advanced-search.html) enabling searches to be directed in terms of technical subject-matter, language, relative importance and date of publication. All decisions are available in plain text which can be conveniently cut and pasted, and many of them are also available if required in the original format as a pdf. Each decision includes both a list of cited decisions directed to previous case law and also of citing decisions directed to subsequent case law. The latter list enables an assessment to be made of how well-received and influential each decision has been. Where the HTML version of the 7th edition mentions a decision by its J, T or G-number there is also a link which if selected takes us direct to the report in the database.

The review and the database in combination therefore provide a resource of world-leading and to the best of the writer’s knowledge unmatched capability. For example, although decisions of the US Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit and the USPTO Patent Trial and Appeal Board are available online there is no comparable search mask and there are no crosslinks to previous or subsequent decisions.

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