The European Patent Office (EPO) has very recently published a Notice concerning the opposition procedure before the EPO as from 1 July 2016. Readers will probably know that an opposition against a European Patent can be filed within nine months after grant. This will not change. Readers will probably also know that the opposition procedure can be quite lengthy so that years might pass before a decision is rendered by the first instance. This will change.
There are two major factors which shall contribute to speeding up the opposition procedure. Firstly, contrary to the former practice, extensions of time limits will be granted only in exceptional cases with duly substantiated requests. Secondly, when communicating the reply to an opposition from the patent proprietor to the opponent, the Opposition Division will at the same time prepare the next action. This next action will normally be the issuance of summons to oral proceedings.
The EPO claims that “[W]ith the revised workflow, the total time needed for a decision in straightforward cases will be reduced to 15 months, calculated as from expiry of the opposition period.” This will hopefully become reality and should make the possibility of a central revocation of a European Patent in an opposition procedure before the EPO even more attractive.
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