Wednesday, November 21, 2018

EPO online consultation on increased flexibility in the timing of the examination process (until 11 January 2019)

[Cited, with some adaptations, from the EPO News webpage at link]

Send your feedback to the EPO: online consultation on increased flexibility in the timing of the examination process

19 November 2018

The EPO has launched an online user consultation on the need for more flexibility in the timing of the examination process by giving applicants the possibility of postponing the examination of European patent applications. 
In recent years the EPO has introduced a number of measures to speed up the patent grant procedure through its Early Certainty initiative, and this has been welcomed by applicants and the public as it provides information about the scope of patent protection at an earlier stage. As a result, nowadays 99% of published patent applications are accompanied by their search report including a written opinion on their patentability (it was 90% in 2012).
At the same time it has also been argued that in some instances applicants might need more time before the grant of a patent as it would better suit with the development and innovation cycle of their products. This is why the Office looked for ways to inject some more flexibility in the examination phase, in order to address the various needs of the users. Discussions on the possibility to postpone the examination started with multiple stakeholders and user associations in 2017.
The EPO is now inviting all stakeholders to provide their views on the introduction of a postponed examination scheme in the European patent grant procedure, and on other possible measures to increase flexibility in the examination process.
User feedback plays a key role in helping us to enhance the quality and effectiveness of our processes and services. We welcome your input.
The user consultation runs until 11 January 2019.

Further information

The Questions comprise:

I. Need for more flexibility in the timing of examination
Question 1: Would you be in favour of a procedural option for postponing examination of a European patent application and, if so, could you explain why?

Question 2: In your view, would a postponed examination system benefit the European patent system? Could you explain why?

Question 3: In your view, what might be the economic and business impact of a postponed examination system?

Question 4: In your view, would such a system influence applicants’/patentees’ behaviour in filing patent applications or enforcing patents and, if so, how?

Question 5: In your view, would such a system benefit the public at large?

Question 6: Would such a system have an impact on competitors’ behaviour?

II. Possible features of a postponed examination system
Question 7: Should all European and Euro-PCT applications be eligible for postponed examination? If so, why? If not, please indicate what limitations on eligibility could be envisaged.

Question 8: Which postponement option would you consider the most suitable?

Question 9: How should the postponement of examination be activated?

Question 10: Depending on your reply to the previous question, when should a request for postponed examination be filed?

Question 11: What would be the appropriate starting point for a postponement period?

Question 12: What should be the maximum length of the postponement period?

Question 13: Should the fulfilment of any of the following requirements under the EPC be postponed until the start of examination and, if so, why?

III. Third-party activation mechanism
Question 14: Should third parties be allowed to trigger the start of examination?

Question 15 : How should a third party trigger the start of examination?

Question 16: What further requirements should be attached to the third-party activation mechanism?

IV. Office activation mechanism in a postponed examination scheme
Question 17: Should the Office be able to start examination ex officio at any time?

Question 18: In which of the following situations should the Office be allowed to start examination ex officio?

V. Other suggestions
Question 19: Do you have any other suggestions for giving applicants greater control over the speed of the examination process?

Question 20: Would you be in favour of procedural options for further reducing the pendency of a European patent application? If so, please specify.

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