EPO announces extensions to deadlines due to COVID-19

EPO announces extensions to deadlines due to COVID-19

On Sunday 15 March 2020 the EPO published a notice advising it is invoking the provisions of Rule 134(2) EPC, and has extended all periods expiring on or after publication of the notice to 17 April 2020. This may be extended by the EPO upon publication of a further notice.

However, do note that this does not apply to all deadlines under the EPC.

Does this extension start right now?

Yes. We have had email confirmation from the EPO that the "publication" is the online publication of the notice on 15 March 2020, i.e. not the subsequent date of publication in the EPO Official Journal.

Does this mean that all deadlines under the EPC are extended?

No. It is important to understand that this does not apply to all deadlines under the EPC. This only applies to periods set under the EPC. For example, for pending patent applications these include periods set under the following provisions:

  • Art 94(3) (Examination report)
  • Rule 58 (Correction of deficiencies in the application documents)
  • Rule70 (Request for examination)
  • Rule 70a (Response to the extended European search report)
  • Rule 70b (Request for a copy of search results)
  • Rule 71(3) (Request to approve the papers for grant and pay grant and printing fees)

Is the deadline for filing a divisional application extended?

No. Rule 36(1) EPC says that "(1) The applicant may file a divisional application relating to any pending earlier European patent application." Therefore, Rule 36(1) EPC sets a condition for filing a divisional application, and not a period for filing the application (see e.g. decision J 0019/10 at Reasons 7). Therefore, you still need to get divisional applications filed before the date of grant of the parent application.

If you need specific assistance with filing a divisional application then please contact us. For example, it is possible to file divisional applications without payment of official fees and without claims - this can be helpful when you do not have final instructions to file the divisional application or where you do not know which invention/claims to pursue.

Is the deadline for payment of renewal fees extended?

Yes. This is true for both the initial deadline for payment of renewal fees, as well as the six month grace period.

Rule 51 EPC sets the provisions for payment of renewal fees, including the deadline for payment. Although a deadline is set, it is the end of a period (decision J 0004/91 at Reasons 3.2; J 0020/00 at Reasons 5.1). Therefore, it is extended under this notice from the EPO.

Is the deadline for filing Euro(PCT) applications extended?

Yes. The 31 month deadline for filing Euro(PCT) applications is the end of a 31 month period (Rule 159 EPC), and so is extended under this notice from the EPO.

Conclusions

Although most EPO deadlines are extended by this current notice, it does not apply to all deadlines set by the EPO. If you have any questions then please get in touch with your usual Wynne-Jones contact.

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