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EQE 2024: Room, Desk & Creating Evidence

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We have made schedules with timings for each exam, and a DO NOT DISTURB sign for EQE 2024 to help with the requirements around the start of the exam.

  • If you are more than 15 minutes late entering the flows, you will not be allowed in.
  • The time when you are NOT ALLOWED to take an unscheduled break has been increased from 45 mins to 60 mins.
  • Print BEFORE starting the FLOWlock Browser: 10-15 minutes before the start of each part of the exam, any printable documents will appear on the flow page. Click on the refresh icon (clockwise arrow) or press F5 to see them. 

During the Tutor’s Meeting in 2023 (epi information 04/2023), it was stated that “the invigilators and Examination Board have seen some deterioration about respecting the rules, e.g., people wearing headsets and some even refused to take them off. The latter is not acceptable, and the Examination Board had to take them more serious in 2023, also in view as not in pandemic crisis anymore. In EQE 2023, 36 (Pre-Exam: 17; main exam: 19) cases with a breach of rules were detected. All 36 candidates were contacted, giving facts and asking for explanation. Not all replied or convincingly explained their behaviour and some disciplinary action had to be taken, in particular deduction of points, sometimes leading from PASS into COMP FAIL or FAIL. In 2024, the Examination Board will be more strict on the rules for conduct“. We have made the 2023 Tutors Report available directly here.

So, all candidates need to read the requirements (don’t just rely on us 馃槈), especially the latest ItC. Comply with the spirit and letter of all the regulations and instructions, before during and after the exam, even if you think them trivial. If you are worried about compliance with any of these requirements, or you have medical issues that conflict (such as hearing aids), try to solve them yourself as much as possible. If you cannot comply, inform the helpdesk@eqe.org ASAP, and certainly before the exam.

epi‘s Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion is discussing the topic of ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the EQE very actively, and we would be grateful to hear of any experiences candidates want to share. You can contact any of the members of the D&I group, or use the central email d-and-i@patentepi.org https://patentepi.org/en/diversity-and-inclusion/members-of-di-wg.html

Join the EQE Telegram groups to discuss issues with other candidates: Main group, Study group, ABC&PE-claims, D&PE-legal and Marketplace. The groups are public, and open to any tutors or candidates. A few rules: treat others with respect, no discussion of cheating, no exchange of large sections of copyrighted materials (use of excerpts for study and discussion allowed). During scheduled exams, no discussion of the exam questions or answers. During mocks, no restrictions on the discussions.

Room and Exam Environment – some comments

  • ItC II.6 – Food, drink and medications are allowed. Standard, non-electric/non-electronic desk accessories are allowed (notepaper, pens, pencils, etc.).
  • ItC V.6, 7 – During the exam, you need to stay in front of the camera – in other words, keep your face and ears within camera view, and don’t talk or make noises. Not covered by caps, scarves, sunglasses, other body parts, etc. Eyeglasses with clear lenses are permitted but only where used as vision aids.
  • ItC V.7, 8 – You cannot leave room, close FLOWlock browser or move out of camera view within first 60 mins of each part of a Main Exam, even if you have handed in your answer
  • ItC V.9 – During each exam, you may only leave the room for scheduled breaks (prescheduled breaks between official exam parts, such as for lunch). Exceptionally, in those exam parts that allow you to do so, you may take unscheduled breaks. Unscheduled breaks are only possible during paper A, paper B, the two parts of paper C and part D2 of paper D, and only after 60 minutes have passed from the official exam start time.
    • So for PE (70 mins), D1-1 (95 mins) and D1-2 (105 mins), there are NO unscheduled breaks allowed. Even if you hand-in early, you must stay in front of the camera at least 60 minutes before leaving (ItC 8).
    • Consider using adult diapers (not a joke – I used them as a benchmarker last year). Even during the in-person exams, a lot of candidates used to use them to maximise their time working on the exam as the bathrooms were not always close-by and sometimes you had to wait in line.
    • 2024-02-20 EQE helpdesk answer:
      • you are right, no unscheduled breaks are allowed during paper PE (all 4 parts, each with duration 70 minutes), paper D1.1 (duration 95 minutes) and D1.2. (duration 105 minutes).
      • If you do take a break during these parts the invigilator will take a note of it, inform you that it is not allowed and potential disciplinary measures may ensue.
      • Candidates who can prove that they have a medical problem that requires them to go to the bathroom more frequently and who cannot go without toilet breaks for longer periods can exceptionally be granted to take unscheduled toilet breaks also during periods where it is normally not allowed.
  • ItC V.9(b) – Unscheduled breaks are only allowed in A, B, C and D2 after 60 mins. You must inform the invigilator via the chat widget when you take an unscheduled break and when you return to your desk. You do not have to wait for authorisation before leaving. Unscheduled breaks are expected to take no more than 3 mins.
    • Don’t take any exam materials or notes from your desk with you. The examination clock is not stopped.
    • Make sure you leave the system/browser running. Also don’t come back with any papers.
  • ItC V.10 and 13 – Contact the invigilators if you have a problem with complying with an instruction during the exam. You may have to wait a few minutes before you get an answer. Follow the instructions of invigilators in full and at all times.
    • It will be stressful, but please be patient and respectful to the invigilators 馃檹. They have to follow their internal rules and there may be different escalation levels they have to go through.
  • ItC V.2 – invigilators may perform checks to inspect your examination environment
  • ItC II.2 and IV.9 – The room needs to be quiet and well-lit for the invigilation.
  • ItC II.2 and IV.12 – Room doors must remain closed during the examination. You must be alone, no other person (or animal) is allowed to be in or enter the room. LOCK THE DOOR.
  • ItC II.3 – Cover any see-through wall or door in the room through which another person might be able to see your screen, or communicate with you.
    • Paper, card or opaque plastic may be used on the inside (see the picture above)
    • If no-one can see-in (windows on the 1st floor etc), then you don’t need to cover them
  • ItC II.3, 4 – To ensure correct facial registration, any window, mirror or other shiny or glossy surface or parts of these which are located behind you (i.e. facing the screen) must be covered. There must not be any light source pointed at the camera from behind you to keep the image clean. The background behind you in the image must not have any portraits with faces visible to the camera. Bookshelves behind your head during invigilation should not be a problem. They don’t need to be covered.
  • ItC II.5 – Listening to the radio or playing any other sound or music is not allowed. 
  • ItC IV.11 – Apart from the computer system (screen, keyboard, mouse, etc.), router and printer needed to take the examination, no other electronic devices (e.g. calculators, digital watches, smartphones and smartwatches) are permitted unless explicitly allowed by the Examination Secretariat in advance.
    • ItC IV.9 – no prohibited equipment may be “within reach”. In other words, not within reach when you are sitting in front of the camera, keeping your face and ears within camera view.
    • Prohibited equipment may remain in the room if it is turned off and completely out of reach.
    • Turn away any other computer screens, monitors etc so that they are not visible, and are completely out of reach.
  • ItC II.7 and IV. 4 – You may use any printed materials, e.g. books, and any documents you consider useful for answering the examination papers. Prepare your desk before the exam.
    • Don’t put posters on the wall that you wish to refer to. Looking at them could be considered “suspicious” – ItC VI.3.
    • Everything needs to be within reach without moving out of range of the camera.
  • ItC II.6 – Food, drink and medications are allowed. Standard, non-electric/non-electronic desk accessories are allowed (notepaper, pens, pencils, etc.).
  • ItC V.10 and 13 – Contact the invigilators if you have an issue or a technical problem. You may have to wait a few minutes before you get an answer. Follow the instructions of invigilators in full and at all times.
    • For example, if you are given an invigilator password, WRITE IT DOWN and only use it as directed. DO NOT share it. 
    • It will be stressful, but please be respectful to the invigilators 馃檹. It is not easy to diagnose problems remotely, they have to follow their internal rules and there may be different escalation levels they have to go through.

Hardware & Software – some comments

  • ItC III.3 – It is strongly advised NOT to do exam from office using a company computer on a company network
    • You will have the least chance of technical issues if you use a dedicated desktop with one screen (at least 27 inch), one camera, one microphone, one keyboard, one mouse, one loudspeaker device, one printer, direct wired (USB/HDMI) connections to all peripherals, administrator access, cabled (LAN) access. The chances of problems are further reduced by connecting to a non-company network.
    • Avoid using port replicators and docking stations. FLOWlock Browser disables “suspicious” processes on startup. Some people have had problems starting, and/or disconnection problems. This might be due to using a modern hub with more than one video output. Solution: use a simple USB-hub with only what you need.
    • Avoid VPN. Can lead to slow connections. FLOWlock Browser also cannot handle changes in your IP address.
    • You can set up your phone as a mobile hotspot to use in emergencies, but your phone cannot be within reach during the exam. Your computer has to be set up to automatically switch networks.
      • WISEflow has no problem with temporary losses of connection, and will restore the connection itself while you continue working
      • In AN EMERGENCY you may need to use CTRL-ALT-DELETE (once) to switch networks manually (but this will very likely crash WISEflow, so only do it in an emergency).
    • Disable all screensavers, hibernation modes and power savers – do not allow the display, hard disk etc to be turned off after a period of inactivity. Inactivity is most likely on Paper C where you have a lot on paper to read, but on some systems screens are turned off after 10 minutes.
    • During the exam:
      • if you notice any problems with loading, try first to REFRESH (click on “clockwise arrow” icon or use F5). 
      • If you have a blurry preview window, it can help to change the zoom. This is found by clicking the (i) icon in the browser top-left menu.
      • If you want to search in a browser tab, use the search icon in the top-left menu (CTRL-F) does not work.
      • if the LOCKdown browser crashes or your computer crashes, you will need to restart your computer, open a web browser, go to WISEflow, login and open the flow home page. Before starting LOCKdown browser again, you will need the administrator password from an invigilator if it is more than 15 mins since the exam part started.
  • ItC III.1, 2 – read the latest technical recommendations on official WISEflow page. But note that iPads may not be used. 
  • ItC IV.2, 3 – ensure WISEflow and LockDown (FLOWlock) browser are up to date. Read the official “Guide to Lockdown Browser
    • To verify after logging-in to WISEflow, click on the drop down menu next to your name and select “Edit profile” and “Test Browser”. This will start the FLOWlock / LockDown Browser, and check that it is up to date. 
  • ItC IV.7 and IV.10 – The microphone must capture the sound around you and must be connected and active throughout the examination. Audio verification is required before you can access the flow. 
  • ItC III.5, 6 – The camera should be positioned centred above or below the frame of the active monitor, but not more than 5 cm away from it. The camera is to be oriented to show a frontal portrait image of you when you are looking at the screen. It must not be covered at any time. 
  • ITC III.6 – Speaker settings must be adjusted so that sounds from the internet browser are audible and left on for the whole exam. Internal laptop speakers are fine if they are loud enough.
    • Invigilators can “beep” to get your attention through the chat widget, even if you are not on the first (editor) tab. 
  • ItC IV.11 – You are not allowed to use earphones, headsets or other, non-electronic noise-cancelling devices, such as earplugs. 

ItC IV.7 – Candidates are not allowed to use shortcuts (ALT+TAB, CTRL+P or similar), key combinations and touchpad gestures, except Ctrl+C, CTRL+V, CTRL+Shift+V, CTRL+F (and the corresponding Mac shortcuts).

  • These are the only shortcuts guaranteed not to crash the LockDown (FLOWlock) browse
  • Consider mechanically blocking ALT and WINKEY to prevent accidents.
  • If you have a touchpad or touchscreen, disable the settings allowing 3 or 4 finger gestures.

Create your own evidence

Disclaimer: these are my general impressions, and will not cover all individual cases. I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If you are worried, then talk to your mentor, or contact helpdesk@eqe.org

  • The EQE rules are a framework to sanction anyone who seriously breaches the rules or tries to cheat.
  • If you do your best to comply, there should be no problems. AI proctoring is used together with people, so unexpected issues can be dealt with using common sense.
  • You can be asked by invigilators at any time to make a room scan with your camera.
  • Potentially suspicious behaviour will be flagged automatically by AI software.
  • ItC VI.2, 3- all the audio / visual / computer / network / keyboard / mouse inputs from each candidate are analysed after the exam, and compared to other candidates. Decisions are not taken solely on these flags – data collected will always be reviewed by the responsible EPO/epi members and they will contact you first. They also have your answers, how you answered, the speed and order of answering, and chat interactions for analysis and comparison.
  • ItC V.2, IV.2- the invigilators can see real-time some of your data, but they will mainly be using video and audio. If you are not contacted by an invigilator, that does not mean that no issues were detected by the system. If you accidentally breach an instruction, you may not be warned by the invigilators.
  • Read the EQE Data Protection Statement (version “2024”) on the official EQE online page, so you know who is retaining what data, and your right to access, rectify, erase and receive your personal data, as well as restrict its processing or object to the same. Reference is made to the EPO Data Protection Rules (DPR). In general, personal data is deleted max. 30 months (2.5 years) after exam, or after appeal. Facial images, audio and biometric data deleted after 6 months, but if suspected misconduct or appeal, EPO will make a copy and retain for max. 30 months (2.5 years).
  • You can expect that the rules will be interpreted in good faith, but the evidence being used is based on the data collection and AI. You are the only witness that you have complied with all the rules, but you do not control the data that is collected. If you are contacted days, weeks or even months after the exam, you will have forgotten a lot of details. So, put yourself in the best position to defend against being unfairly flagged.
    • Report any issues or conflicts with regulations BEFORE the exam. Make PDF copies of the emails.
    • Prepare alternative and back-up solutions for the computer, and test your system as much as possible. You are allowed to have a backup computer if it is turned off and out of reach during the exam.
    • Keep your mentor updated on any problems, and make sure they know the exact circumstances you are taking the exam. Preferably, they should also see your environment either in person or by video chat. Record the video chat with a time and GPS stamp. Or with photos with time and GPS stamp.
    • Before each exam, before you put your phone away, make a video with time and GPS stamp of the room, desk and computer. Include your point-of-view as you will take the exam, 360 degrees around, up and down. Under the desk, on top of the desk. Behind the monitor. Explain to yourself what everything is, and how they comply with the requirements. Mention anything you removed to comply with the requirements. Also include the ID you will be using. If there are glass walls and windows, show that they are covered. Show where the doors are, and what is on the other side. Still pictures are also possible, but a video is stronger evidence. If possible, include a witness or get someone else to film you. It should only take 5 minutes.
    • Put your phone out of the room (you don’t want it to accidentally ring). Don’t record video and/or audio during the exam as this itself is a breach of the rules.
    • During the exam, if something happens that could be flagged as suspicious, report it in the invigilator chat and make a note on paper so you don’t forget.
      • If you interact with an invigilator, write down the name of the invigilator. Do not close the chat before you have received an answer.
      • I realise it will be stressful, but please be respectful to the invigilators 馃檹. It is not easy to diagnose problems remotely and there may be different escalation levels they have to go through.
      • If the chat widget is not available and only in emergency cases, please call +49 89 2399 5155.
    • If appropriate for issues during the exam, ask politely for more exam time as compensation. This is technically possible, but the policy is unclear. If you have asked and they refused, you may have a stronger case during any appeal. Whatever the outcome of the extra time request, focus on the rest of the exam, and finish as much as possible to give them something to mark.
    • Previously, it was possible to ask for a transcript of your chat interactions – it is unclear if this is still possible.
  • AFTER the exam, report any issues that happened during the exam as soon as possible. They take everything into account, but issues will not always result in extra marks. The forms are available until midnight after each exam – go to the official EQE online page, scroll down and open “EQE online”.
  • If have made notes on paper or annotated printed pages, store them safely and scan them in. Store the unedited videos, photos and files somewhere safe. DON’T send the helpdesk your videos, photos and files.
  • Create official evidence using a third party. You should know how to do this for clients when they need to register something confidentially for copyright, trade secret, right of continued use or NDA purposes:
    • i-DEPOT – upload up to 100MB of one or more files (any format), create and register a certified pdf, BMM retains it for 5 years, you can download a copy of the certified copy. The certificate is officially recognised as an electronic signature by judges in all 27 EU countries.
    • truetimestamp.org – create a SHA-2 hash fingerprint yourself . They have their own register of certificates (free).
  • Consider requesting a copy of the data they have collected
  • If you are accused of suspicious behaviour, don’t just send all your videos and files and hope for the best. Talk to a colleague or mentor. You will need to respond seriously, offering to supply selected parts of the evidence. Handle it like receiving a “cease and desist” letter.

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2 replies on “EQE 2024: Room, Desk & Creating Evidence”

Extraneous Attorneysays:

Thank you for this exhaustive summary. I cannot help but feel two things:

1/ The rules all boil down to putting on the candidates the entire burden of sitting the EQE as if they were in an examination center… precisely like when in the EQE was in the old form, with paper answer sheets, and with in-person invigilation arranged by the EPO and the Examination Board. Complying strictly with all the rules looks like a tedious, I dare not say exhausting, exercise. I get that in 2021 and 2022 there was no choice but hold the EQE in this form, because of Covid and all. But in 2024? It seems that the EPO jumped on the opportunity to look all modern and trendy, while in fact just recouping the money that was spent on the software, all at the expense of the candidates’ peace of mind.

2/ I am very glad that I could the EQE back when it was in the old form, rather than in these conditions. Preparing for the papers itself was already difficult enough.

1) You are 100% correct – the burden has almost completely shifted to candidates. Unfortunately, many are not even aware of the rules buried on a web site. Most courses spend no time on this, but if you fail by 5 marks, it does not matter whether it was due to you not studying something, your computer crashing, your phone ringing on the other side of the room, you being distracted by needing to go to the bathroom, someone accidentally opening your door and speaking etc.
I think a lot of candidates are still looking at the “official” Instructions to Candidates published in Feb 2022 (OJ 2022, A20), which is hopelessly out of date.
The cost savings are huge, so the only way to go back to test centers is if someone finds it important enough, and a budget is arranged.

Informally, an idea has been discussed to provide rooms at national patent offices. I think a lot of candidates would be prepared to pay for reliable power and reliable network, together with in-person invigilation.
I also don’t understand why the use of trusted facilitators is not allowed, like in the UK.

2) At least the in-paper exams were designed to be made on paper. For the on-line exams, they still insist on using exams designed to be made on-paper for B and C. Solving B relies on being able to compare claims and drawings side-by-side which is not possible in WISEflow. For C, they are still unable to split an exam into 2 equal parts or reduce the prior art so that you don’t need a printer (another thing that candidates need to arrange). And the D1 is becoming like a second D2 with now only 5 questions with an average of 12 marks per question (used to be 10 questions of 5 marks).

We have been told that all the problems will be solved in the new format in 2026 / 2027, but I have not seen any details on the lengths of the exams or how they will be divided.
I am skeptical – previous approaches relied on adapting exams in the pipeline to “fit them” to the new formats.
I think the new M3 will be almost impossible to pass in 1x attempt, even if you have no technical problems. They will be trying to test the current A, B and C syllabus (3 full exams) in 3 parts on the same day with no compensation between the parts.
The current A, B, and C are very unpredictable regarding subject-matter and overflowing with info.

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