Since October 1, 1982, the European Patent Office (EPO) has been available as an International Searching Authority for PCT applications filed by U.S. nationals or residents in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as receiving Office or in the International Bureau (IB) as receiving Office. The EPO, effective January 1, 2015, no longer has any limitations concerning its competency to act as an International Searching Authority. Previously, the EPO would not carry out an international search for any application which contained one or more claims relating to the field of business methods. Under this new practice, in applications containing claims relating to business methods where the subject matter of the application also contains technical features, the EPO will perform a search for those parts of the application which are more than mere business methods. However, the EPO will issue a declaration under PCT Article 17(2)(a) that no ISR will be established whenever an application relates only to a business method as such. Additionally, the EPO will not search any international application to the extent that it considers that the international application relates to subject matter set forth in PCT Rule 39.1. A declaration under PCT Article 17(2)(a) will be issued in these cases as well.
Once the international search report has been established by ISA/EP, the copies of the documents cited in the PCT international search report are also mailed to the applicant.