European Patent Office eases requirements for recordal of assignments and licences on European patent applications

April 17, 2024

Earlier this month, on 1 April 2024, a number of changes came into force at the European Patent Office (EPO) regarding electronic signatures and the demonstration of an entitlement to sign on behalf of an entity. These changes simplify the process of recording assignments or licences at the EPO.

Before April 2024, wet/handwritten signatures were generally used on assignment or licence documents for recordal at the EPO. However, from 1 April 2024, the requirements relating to digital signatures have been relaxed at the EPO, such that digital signatures are generally acceptable provided they are “filed electronically, are legible, are not infected with a computer virus, and do not contain other malicious software”.

Furthermore, from 1 April 2024, the EPO will no longer check the entitlement of a signatory to sign on behalf of a legal entity. Previously, if a signatory’s position at a company was not suitably high-ranking (for instance Director, CEO or President), the EPO would require proof of entitlement to sign on behalf of that company. Proof of entitlement can be cumbersome to obtain, so this change will increase the efficiency of assignment and licence recordals at the EPO.

These changes will generally be seen as a positive development for applicants at the EPO, given the potential time and cost savings when recording assignments or licences.