Until 1998, the European Patent Office (EPO) relied on traditional, paper-based systems for the management of patent applications. Every application was kept, together with all procedural papers, in a paper folder. These folders were stored in a large number of archives spread across different sites.

New documents received by the different sites, and those generated by the EPO's computer systems, had to be transported through the organisation to unite them with the relevant folders.

Folders then had to be distributed amongst EPO staff for action and returned to the archives again for storage. With over 500 000 active files and thousands of new documents being added every day, the overheads were formidable and increasing at an unsustainable rate.

The ePHOENIX system was developed to replace all paper folders and their contents with electronic “dossiers”.

The immediate benefits were:

  • no more physical movement of documents and files
  • reduction in required archive storage capacity
  • instant access to files irrespective of location
  • no files unavailable because of being “in transit”
  • increased efficiency and timeliness
  • natural migration path for online filing and other automation services

ePHOENIX is now an important central system within the EPO on which many other applications are built. It is also used for document exchange between different offices.