EPO greenlights revamp of European Qualifying Exam
Aspiring European Patent Attorneys have reason to be excited as the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation approved on 14 December 2023 significant amendments to the “Regulation on the European Qualifying Examination” (REE). The Decision of the Administrative Council of 14 December 2023 amending the Regulation on the European qualifying examination for professional representatives before the European Patent Office (CA/D 25/23) has been published in the EPO Official Journal in January 2024.
These long-awaited changes are the result of an extensive reform process led by a collaborative effort between the European Patent Office (EPO) and the Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office (epi). This significant milestone in the continued modernisation of the EQE will pave the way for the new European Qualifying Examination (EQE) in 2025, ensured with transitional measures for current EQE candidates.
Established in 1979, the EQE tests candidates' knowledge and competencies to represent clients in EPO proceedings and offer strategic advice. The EQE is widely regarded as one of the most demanding professional examinations, which among others requires several years of full-time supervised training on various procedural aspects. Despite the very low passing rate, over 10 000 candidates have passed since the introduction of the EQE.
The EQE is held once a year for all candidates worldwide on the same date(s). Since 2021, the EQE is held online and can be taken at any suitable location chosen by the candidate.
Restructuring and Content Enhancements
Why should this new EQE reform excite Attorneys, candidates and clients alike? The new EQE, in particular, is intended to examine whether a practitioner not only possesses the necessary knowledge and experience, but is also capable of operating in a dynamic and digital professional environment, thereby contributing to a well-functioning patent system.
To that end, the current format (including a pre-exam and four main examination papers A, B, C, and D) is replaced by five new modules that will enable the integration of modern examination methods and assessment techniques.
The five new modules are designed and sequenced to capture candidates' declarative, procedural and strategic knowledge, from basic legal knowledge to the performance of complex substantive patent practice and strategy advice. Whilst the duration of the exam remains the same as today’s EQE (about 20 hours in total), the five new modules align more closely with the practical daily reality and demands of the profession. The key difference between this format and the current one is that each of these modules can be completed progressively over time, allowing a candidate to grow more naturally in the profession. For instance:
- The new foundation paper F (replacing the pre-EQE) requires at least 1 year of full-time supervision by a European Patent Attorney;
- Paper M1 and M2, focusing on the analysis and assessment of information supplied by a client and the application of procedural and substantive patent law, requires at least 2 years of full-time supervision; and
- Paper M3 and M4, relating to drafting patent documentation and advising clients, requires at least 3 years of full-time supervision.
A Seamless Examination Experience
To facilitate a seamless transition for current candidates, transitional measures have been introduced, allowing the candidates and other stakeholders ample time to adjust.
Starting in 2025, the new modules will be gradually introduced, while the existing papers will be phased out by 2027 over the three-year period as follows:
- In 2025, all main examination papers under the present regulations will be available. The pre-examination will be cancelled and not be held anymore. The new Module F will be launched. Importantly, candidates eligible for the pre-examination on the date of the 2025 examination will be exempt from the pre-examination under Art. 25(6) REE. Hence, these candidates can exceptionally sit the (last) ABCD papers, in 2026 without having to pass a pre-examination.
- In 2026, the main examination papers under the present regulations and new modules F, M1 and M2 will co-exist. This will be the last year when the exam will be held in the “old” format.
- From 2027 onwards the fully-fledged new EQE modules will be in place.
Candidates that have enrolled for a paper under the new Regulation can no longer enroll for a paper under the current Regulation (see Art.25 REE). Finally, detailed rules will apply to candidates who have already passed some of the “old” papers.
Closing the Circle
The Administrative Council’s approval of the REE will be complemented by the Implementing Provisions of the REE (IPREE), which will shape the practical aspects of the EQE and are expected to be finalized pursuant to a decision of the EQE Supervisory Board. We look forward to the publication of the REE (IPREE).
Embracing Change for a Bright Future
The approval of the new EQE regulations marks a significant milestone in the evolution of the examination. By embracing progressiveness, modularity, and sustainability, the EQE ensures that future European Patent Attorneys are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their profession. The restructured examination will align more closely with the practical demands placed on patent attorneys, fostering excellence and modernization in the field.
With the introduction of the new EQE, the future of the patent profession looks promising. Candidates can look forward to an examination that reflects the realities of their daily work, ensuring they are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of European patent law and provide valuable support to their clients. The ongoing commitment to excellence will contribute to the continued success of the patent system and the protection of innovation in Europe.
For more information on registration, enrollment, and important dates, visit the official EQE website here and stay updated on the latest news and developments. You can also contact us at email@example.com.