Stricter deadlines in opposition proceedings at the EPO
The EPO has recently published a “Notice from the EPO concerning the opposition procedure as from 1 July 2016” setting forth a new practice for the opposition proceedings at the EPO.
The aim of this new practice is to reduce the total time to decision in opposition proceedings to 15 months calculated from the expiry of the opposition period in straightforward cases.
It appears that this reduction in the total length of the opposition proceedings will be obtained in part by reducing the time available to the parties for filing their responses and possible claim amendments.
In particular, under the current practice, the time limit set by the opposition division for responding to communications, and especially the 4-month deadline for responding to the opposition, could be extended by two months upon filing a simple request before the expiry of the initial deadline without having to provide any particular explanations. According to the new practice, such an extension of the time limit for response will be granted only in exceptional circumstances with duly substantiated requests.
Furthermore, the time limit for filing observations or amendments prior to the oral proceedings will generally be set to two months before the oral proceedings instead of one previously.
It is also intended that the summons to oral proceedings be sent out earlier than was previously the case. Indeed, according to the Notice from the EPO, the issuance of summons to oral proceedings will be prepared by the opposition division at the same time as communicating the observations and amendments filed by the patent proprietor to the opponent for information.
This new practice applies from 1 July 2016. It applies only to the procedure before the Opposition Divisions. Procedure before the Board of Appeals is not affected, keeping in mind that extensions of time limits are exceptionally granted by the Board of Appeals and require a written and reasoned request.
More information can be found here.
Contact : Anne Francastel
This IP Alert is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.