Expansion of Early Certainty Initiative
The European Patent Office introduced in 2014 “Early Certainty from Search”, seeking to establish the search report and the written opinion within six months from filing. This process has since been applied for quite some time.
The EPO subsequently intends to extend this initiative in order to shorten the time needed for the examination stage. The goal is to reach an average duration of 12 months for examination.
The EPO will introduce a modified refund scheme concurrently with this initiative. When the application is withdrawn before start of substantive examination, the refund of the examination fee will be increased to 100%. In addition, a 50% refund will be provided in cases where the application is withdrawn after the first official communication.
While the EPO seeks to streamline the proceedings, given the rise in the number of applications in recent years, this initiative will likely reduce the time each Examining Division can allot to a given case. It is to be expected that more patent applications will be subject to oral proceedings or refusals following a reduced number of office actions (probably tending to one substantive office action only before oral proceedings or refusal or grant).
The users (i.e. the applicants) will likely need to file patent applications that are from the outset as far as possible in line with the requirements of the EPO in order to allow a rapid examination of the applications and limit the risk of a refusal or the need of a divisional application for continuing the examination after refusal.
More information is available here.
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