Study Materials Review: EPC.App and PCT.App, the self-editable commented conventions

A year ago, a friend of the Informals and fellow blogger, Pete Pollard (of Salted Patent – also a great resource for trainees!), reached out to send over some study materials he has been involved with, so thanks to Pete Pollard for a copy of his books and Till Andlauer for sending over the PCT.app and EPC.app books.

Upon receiving all the books, I found that my revision for, then, the pre-EQEs had officially started. In my time with the books, I have come to use them not as a replacement to my monolithic commentary provided by Hoekstra, but as a precursor to those more detailed notes to find where to look – which as those of you who have sat the EQEs before, will know how important knowing where the information is can be. Since receiving the books, I have sat (and passed!) the pre-EQE and now I am preparing for all 4 EQEs in March 2022. Here is my review of using the materials in my revision.

EPC.App – The self-editable commented European Patent Convention

I have been aware of the need to create an annotated version of the legal texts or learn to use and annotate a book created by someone else, for several years. It appears like a daunting task at first, but I was surprised by how quickly I was able to make the EPC.App my own.

EPC.App is an annotated EPC, which focuses on finding the most relevant information in the shortest time possible. The authors have achieved this through several features within the book itself and a companion web app (here). In short, all articles, rules and protocols of the EPC, as well as the Rules relating to Fees, are fully reproduced. They are provided with abstracts from the Examination Guidelines, Official Journal articles, and relevant T, G, and J case law, as well as numerous authors’ comments and cross-references. The texts are arranged in order of the articles of the Convention, with two contents pages at the beginning (one overview and one detailed), as well as an index of legal provisions, decisions and a handy abbreviations guide.

In practice, when using the book, you’ll notice: each article or rule of the EPC starts on a new page, so there is room for your own annotations; the texts are arranged in two columns with the legal text always provided on the left and relevant commentaries in the right-hand column; when reading an article, the relevant rules, case-law and related articles are cited next to the subsections of the article; the relevant rules and case-law are then reproduced directly below the article for quick reference; the entire book contains markings of key/important terms such as time limits, fees, languages and legal consequences each with their own unique underlining convention.

The Authors have kindly allowed me to reproduce pages 21 to 25 below – which comprise Article 14 EPC, the rules related to the article, the related case-law, and abstracts from the related guidelines – to better show the features I have pointed out above.

The web browser application (the .App part of the name) allows the user to customize the markings for the time limits, fees, languages and legal consequences by, for example, colour coding each marking, which then rolls out to the rest of the text. The app also lets the user edit the content and reprint the pages (i.e. remove the authors’ comments and add your own, should you wish, or just simply add supplementary info in your own “hand”). Using the web app, I have found it useful to add-in which EQE question brought me to said section, and add comments to that effect. I completely understand why this isn’t stock, but for me that’s really useful, and it’s very easy to add. I know that others have introduced a traffic light colour coding system that makes sense to them so that the colours pop for time limits or the like. Below, is an example of the same pages from the EPC.app book, but stylised in a way I prefer through the EPC.app website – my customization is very minimal, because I have got “used to” the stock underlining convention, and I just wanted key words to pop.

The EPC.App is available in English and German with the same content (bilingual official legal texts; comments translated by authors themselves). A major benefit to the IP.appify suite is that the content is updated twice per year to the current legal status (in April and November). In particular, when the legal texts are updated, individual user annotations are retained – they exist in harmony in this way. The current edition has a legal status of November 2021 and is some 420 pages long.

The updates made also comprise additional cross-references generated from feedback by other users and not just legal text updates. For example, in research for this article, I came across Pete Pollard’s article, ‘using EPC.App for the Paper D – EQE 2019‘ wherein he noted, when answering a question in Paper D, he could not find a note under R.40 EPC that reminded him that missing claims must be provided under R.57(c) EPC, possibly also mentioning the Article 123(3) EPC limitation. Upon turning to page 140 of my paperback November 2020 edition, I can see a note that now refers to these shortcomings that Pete initially identified and fed back to the team. This gave me a good sense of security with the book in my hands and allowed me to know I was starting from a solid foundation to build upon with my notes. On the subject of my notes, I really haven’t added much other than what question brought me to that section, the annotated copy is very well annotated at this point, and getting a hold of a book as is, is still a very power resource.

Lastly, I just wanted to note that the feel of this book compared to others is the impact on efficiency. This is embodied by what I noted above, that there are two tables of contents, one overview that is only a couple of pages long, and one that is a bit more detailed and comprises subheadings. This is how I have found both EPC.App and PCT.App work best for me: they are the first thing I turn to for an answer, then I can drill down more with the references to the Rules, Case-law, and cross-references, then I can drill down even more using my of copy Hoekstra. Going backwards, when I know the detail but need a reminder, the EPC.App book (and the PCT.App book, for that matter) is all I need.

PCT.App – The self-editable commented Patent Cooperation Treaty

Similar to EPC.App, PCT.App is an annotated Patent Cooperation Treaty, however, this time around there are also extensive author comments interlaced within the legal texts. Similar to EPC.App, PCT.App is an annotated Patent Cooperation Treaty. However, this time around there are also extensive author comments interlaced within the legal texts and markings as described above, provided by Pete himself. According to the Authors, the current PCT.App book has been created by combining Pete Pollard’s experience from many years of teaching PCT with IP.appify’s electronic book platform. This book aims to tackle the well-known problem of the PCT that the articles of the treaty define only basic matter and the rules of the regulations have become a convoluted mix of legal provisions, which is difficult to comprehend in their entirety.

Everything I have said above also applies to the PCT.App booklet and web app, including the markings of important key terms and the ability to add your own comments and annotations. PCT.App is also available in English and German with same content (except for EN-only PCT Administrative Instructions). The content will be updated to the current legal status at least once per year. The current edition has a legal status of September 2021 and is some 660 pages long.

The main, or at least a significant difference with the PCT.App from the EPC.App experience is largely based on the structure of the PCT vs. the EPC itself. It would be far too kind to say that the PCT is arranged logically, or at least to my mind when I compare it to the EPC. So straight off the bat, the PCT.App table of contents is arranged by order of topics, such as “what is the PCT”, “filing an international application”, “processing of International applications by the Receiving Office” etc. rather than by articles and rules of the PCT. However, there is an index of articles and rules in order and which section to turn to find them. This approach makes more sense when, for example, the key issues for any particular topic are indeed spread across the PCT.

Take signatures for example. If you had a PCT question in Paper D about signatures, in turning to the PCT.App, you’ll quickly find under section 2.15, “Signature of Applicant, common Representative or Agent”. At the beginning of this section, you’ll see that Articles 14 and 27 PCT, Rules 2.3, 4.1, 4.15, 51bis, and 90.4 PCT, and Administrative Instructions under the PCT sections 315 and 703 are relevant. Knowing that the answer to my signature issue is likely in this one section, is very handy, to say the least. I have reproduced this portion of the PCT.App website below, courtesy of T. Andlauer and the IP.appify team.

As you begin really revising for Paper D, for example, you’ll quickly note that there is no real substantive law for the PCT, so the legal references you’ll be accustomed to seeing in the EPC.App are largely replaced by Pete Pollard’s commentaries, which explain the Articles and Rules quite succinctly. Some “key issues” commentaries provide a quick summary of the main defects relevant to a section. For example, using our fictitious signature issue above, I can see in section 2.15 that a common defect is that a request is not signed by at least one applicant, and I can also see that the relevant rule here is R26.2bis(a) – which is also hyperlinked on the online PCT.App (see below). If that was my issue, I have cut down my searching through the PCT by orders of magnitude. I have reproduced this portion of the PCT.App website below, courtesy of T. Andlauer and the IP.appify team.

Organising the PCT.App by subject, roughly in the order that an application would go through the PCT, gives you an intuition of the book that I simply haven’t found in other materials, largely as these materials were organised by the articles and rules structure. In addition, reading only the relevant part of each law makes it easier to identify the relevancy, to begin with. The organisation of the PCT.App is also the same as the WIPO applicants guide, for ease of cross-reference, should that be needed.

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Summary

In summary, being able to edit the contents of the EPC.App or PCT.App to how I see fit, but not feeling like I was starting from scratch, was a surprisingly easy experience. I plan to keep updating my EPC.app and PCT.app webpage and book until shortly before the exam and then either send the PDFs to a printer or just update the few pages in my physical copy. I have found the colour coding much more useful on the web app than the under-lining in the book, and since I last wrote an iteration of this article, the colour printing issue appears to have been solved. The IP.appify team have an integrated print-on-demand service (available for annual licenses online under PDF generation), which allows one to order a paperback corresponding to the book available via Amazon, but with customized colour coding, up-to-date content, and typed user comments for around EUR 40. The web app is easy to use but it would be great if I could add some images of flow charts or diagrams in between the pages, or something to that effect – that’s something I turn to my Hoekstra for regularly. There is also no undo button, which means being extra cautious when deleting your annotations, but by compiling the PDF you can create a history of versions and back-ups, so nothing a bit of diligence doesn’t fix. Overall, I am really impressed by both the EPC.App and PCT.App and would confidently recommend them as a good resource for both revision and something to take with you “into” the exam, whether that is just the physical book, the EPC.App printed out as you like it, or even a combination of both.

Perhaps in the future, non-hyperlinked PDFs will be available through the Exam Secretariat’s proctoring solution of choice. In this way, it would be possible to keep everything digital. However, until such a time, printing out the notes or ordering a book are, in my opinion, the best way to use these materials – alongside the webapp to add your own annotations.

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How to get hold of a copy & prices

The best place to get hold of a paperback copy of the EPC.App or PCT.App is probably through Amazon, especially if you have a Prime membership – they should be with you in a couple of days. Each book costs 89GBP at the time of writing (November 2021).

The ‘web app’ can be found here. Users who purchase annual licenses for either EPC.App or PCT.App get a 40% discount on their second App. Group discounts for 3 or more users from the same company are available. A student license costs 30EUR for three months or 100EUR per year at full price at the time of writing (November 2021); non-student licenses are 20EUR more. A combination offer gets a license for EPC.App or PCT.App and one book-print per year for 130EUR a year.

Whatever your choice of license / print combination, I think it’s a fair price.

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Please note, I want to make it very clear I was provided with a copy of both the EPC.App and PCT.App books for free. Otherwise, I purchased a license to the website of EPC.app and PCT.app with a discount provided by the Authors. I hope you can see that I have tried to be fair and impartial, but at the end of the day – the resources are really good, period.

The above links are not affiliate links.

Published by joeldavidbriscoe

Immediate Past Hon. Sec. of the Informals Committee, and a Trainee Patent Attorney at Haley Guiliano International LLP.

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