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Legal Update: EPO to accept electronic signatures on assignments and declarations from 1st April 2024


From 1st April 2024, the European Patent Office (EPO) is simplifying the process of registering transfers and licenses of European patent applications on the European Patent Register (see notice from the EPO).

Under the previous rules, electronic signatures were generally not accepted by the EPO on documents used as evidence supporting requests to register transfers, licences, and other such agreements on the European Patent register (i.e. requests under Rules 22 and 85 and under Rules 23 and 24 EPC).  As a result, where assignment or licence documents were signed electronically, it was often necessary to obtain separate supporting documents, with wet ink signatures, solely for the purpose of registration at the EPO.

As of 1st April 2024, the EPO will accept handwritten signatures, facsimile signatures, text string signatures (e.g. /Joe Bloggs/), and digital signatures on documents submitted as evidence to support requests for registration.

Where a digital signature is used, the EPO will accept the digital signature provided that the document is filed electronically, is legible, is not infected with a computer virus, and does not contain other malicious software.

This means that documents signed electronically using DocuSign (and other electronic signature solutions) should now be accepted as evidence supporting registration of transfers and licences.

In addition to the change to the rules regarding electronic signatures on documents supporting requests for registration of transfers and licences, the EPO is also changing its practice regarding the examination of an individual’s entitlement to sign such supporting documents on behalf of a legal person.  From 1st April 2024, the entitlement of a person to sign on behalf of a legal person will no longer be checked by the EPO, provided that the position of the person signing the document within the legal person is expressly indicated on the document.

The new rules should make registering assignments and transfers of European patent applications on the European Patent Register more straightforward, and are a welcome change for applicants.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

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