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EP Rule62aの通知に対する応答

2015.04.21

SKIP

EPでは、原則として、装置と方法のそれぞれについて1つの独立項のみが認められており、複数の独立項が含まれている場合には、Rule62aの通知において、調査対象とする独立項を選択することが求められます。
この通知に対する応答方法としては、以下の何れかが考えられます。
1.反論せずに、調査対象とする独立項を選択する。
2.複数の独立項が規則43(2)で規定する以下の関係を充足している点で反論する。

(a) 相互に関連する複数の製品 a plurality of interrelated products,
(b) 製品又は装置の異なる用途 different uses of a product or apparatus,
(c) 特定の問題についての代替的解決法。ただし,これらの代替的解決法を単一のクレームに包含させることが適切でない場合に限る。 alternative solutions to a particular problem, where it is inappropriate to cover these alternatives by a single claim
3.放置して最初の独立請求項(請求項1)の主題について調査をさせる。なお、この後の審査手続きにおいても、単一性違反の指摘に対する反論は可能。
反論する場合は、なるべく早い段階で調査結果をもらった方が有利なので、選択肢3よりも、選択肢2が望ましいようです。
なお、EPのガイドラインでは、”inter-related products”について、以下のように解説されていて、システムと、サブシステム・サブユニットは、”inter-related products”に該当すると指摘しています。
http://www.epo.org/law-practice/legal-texts/html/guidelines/e/f_iv_3_2.htm
(i) Examples of a plurality of interrelated products (Rule 43(2)(a))
– plug and socket
– transmitter – receiver
– intermediate(s) and final chemical product
– gene – gene construct – host – protein – medicament
For the purpose of Rule 43(2)(a), the term “interrelated” is interpreted to mean “different objects that complement each other or work together”. In addition, Rule 43(2)(a) can be interpreted as covering apparatus claims, since the term “products” is considered to include apparatuses. Likewise, it may include systems, sub-systems and sub-units of such systems, as long as these entities are interrelated. Interrelated methods claims may also fall under the exception of Rule 43(2)(a).
Rule62aの通知に対する補正について、ガイドラインでは、以下のように規定されています。
つまり、EESRが発行されるまでは補正を行うことができないので、Rule62aへの応答時の補正は認められませんが、補正書が提出された場合は、出願人の補正の意図として取り扱われます。
H‑II, 5. Amendments required by Rule 62a and/or Rule 63 – Guidelines for Examination
5. Amendments required by Rule 62a and/or Rule 63
Where the search was limited to certain subject-matter by application of Rule 63 (see B‑VIII, 3.1 and 3.2), the claims must be amended in such a way as to remove the unsearched subject-matter and the description adapted accordingly.
Rule 63(3)
Where the search was limited to certain claims by application of Rule 62a (see B‑VIII, 4.1 and 4.2), the claims must be amended in such a way as to remove the unsearched independent claims and the description adapted accordingly. To this end, the claims may be amended, for example, by deleting an unsearched independent claim or, where this complies with Art. 123(2) and Art. 84, by making an unsearched independent claim dependent on another independent claim of the same category which has been searched.
Rule 62a(2)
In both of these cases, a specific amendment is necessary, unless the applicant can convincingly argue that the invitation sent under Rule 62a(1) and/or Rule 63(1) was not justified.
Such amendments may, however, be made only in examination proceedings or, preferably, in reply to the search opinion (see F‑IV, 3.3). Since the applicant may not amend the claims before receipt of the search report (Rule 137(1)), any claims filed in reply to an invitation under Rule 62a or Rule 63 will be taken only as an indication of what the applicant wants the EPO to search and dealt with accordingly (see B‑VIII, 3.2 and 4.2). The applicant will then have to confirm maintenance of these amendments formally on entry into the examination phase (see A‑V, 2.2).