Annex II
Notice from the European Patent Office dated 4 May 201030 November 2015 concerning the programme for accelerated prosecution of European patent applications ( "PACE")
The implementation of Early Certainty from Search (ECfS) in July 2014 has revealed a need to review and clarify the conditions applicable to the programme for accelerated prosecution of European patent applications ("PACE").  
This revision is intended to help applicants make better use of the programme and enable the Office to process applications for which accelerated prosecution has been requested as promptly as possible. Overall, the revision aims to streamline the programme while increasing its effectiveness.  
As in the past, PACE enables applicants who want their applications processed rapidly to obtain the European search report plus opinion under Rule 62(1) EPC, the first examination report and any communication under Rule 71(3) EPC within tight deadlines.
More details of the revised PACE programme, including any peculiarities for Euro-PCT applications, are given below.  
Information regarding additional ways to expedite the European grant procedure - such as waiving the invitation under Rule 70(2) EPC, waiving the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC, waiving a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC, early entry into the European phase, the accelerated processing of oppositions where infringement proceedings have been instituted, and accelerated processing before the boards of appeal - is provided in the related notice published in OJ EPO 2015, A94.
A further option is available under the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot programme, which allows for the accelerating processing of an eligible European patent application when the claims of a corresponding application have been determined to be patentable/allowable by a PPH partner office, while at the same time allowing the EPO to exploit available work results.[ 4 ]
A. General remarks
1. Accelerated prosecution of European patent applications occurs only on written request. Applicants are required to use the dedicated request form (EPO Form 1005), which must be filed online. The EPO will issue an acknowledgment of receipt promptly.[ 5 ] It will not process requests filed informally, i.e. without using the dedicated form, and/or on paper.
2. A request for participation in the PACE programme (PACE request) may be filed only once during each stage of the procedure, i.e. search and examination, and for one application at a time. A PACE request filed during search will not trigger accelerated examination. A request for accelerated examination may be filed once the examining division becomes responsible for examining the European patent application.[ 6 ]
3. The EPO does not publish requests for accelerated search and/or examination and, by decision of the President dated 12 July 2007,[ 7 ] they are excluded from file inspection.
4. An application will be removed from the PACE programme if  
- the PACE request has been withdrawn,  
- the applicant has requested an extension of time limits,  
- the application has been refused,  
- the application has been withdrawn,  
- the application is deemed to be withdrawn.  
This applies regardless of the legal remedies available under the EPC. In such cases it will not be possible to restore the application to the PACE programme, i.e. a second request for that application during the same stage of the procedure will not be processed.  
5. Additionally, accelerated prosecution will be suspended in the event of failure to pay renewal fees by the due date stipulated in Rule 51(1) EPC.
6. Accelerated prosecution under the PACE programme can be provided only where practically feasible and subject to the workload of search and examining divisions. In certain technical fields there may be constraints due to the numbers of incoming PACE requests. Applicants requesting accelerated prosecution for all or most of their applications will, as a rule, be required by the Office to limit the number of their PACE requests by making a selection.  
7. Applicants may enquire with the EPO customer services as to the status of an application for which a PACE request has been filed.  
B. Search
8. For European patent applications filed on or after 1 July 2014 (including PCT applications entering the European phase where the EPO did not act as (S)ISA), the Office under ECfS strives to issue the extended/partial European search report within six months from the filing date or from expiry of the period under Rule 161(2) EPC. Hence no PACE request is needed.
9. For European patent applications (including PCT applications entering the European phase where the EPO did not act as (S)ISA) filed before 1 July 2014 and claiming priority (second filings), on receipt of a PACE request the Office makes every effort to issue the extended/partial European search report within six months from receipt of the request.  
10. Applicants should bear in mind that an accelerated search can only start 
i. after receipt of the applicant's response to a communication under Rule 62a or 63 EPC or expiry of the respective time limit;
ii. in all cases: when the application documents on file are complete enough for the extended search report to be drawn up. That means, in particular, providing the Office at that time with the claims, the description, the translations required and, where applicable, the drawings and a sequence listing conforming to the rules for the standardised representation of nucleotide or amino acid sequences;  
iii. for PCT applications entering the European phase where the EPO did not act as (S)ISA: after expiry of the six-month period under Rule 161(2) EPC, even if acceleration has been requested under the PACE programme. In order for the supplementary European search to start immediately, on entry into the European phase, the applicant must explicitly waive the right to communications pursuant to Rules 161(2) and 162(2) EPC and pay any claims fees due (see the notice from the EPO dated 30 November 2015, OJ EPO 2015, A94).
11. If the EPO has invited the applicant to pay further search fee(s) under Rule 64(1), second sentence, or 164(1)(b) EPC, it cannot start drawing up the final search report under Rule 64(1), last sentence, or 164(1)(c) EPC until it has received the applicant's response, or until the two-month time limit set in the invitation has expired.
C. Examination
12. Accelerated examination can, in principle, be requested at any time once responsibility for the application has passed to the examining division.[ 8 ]
13. For PCT applications entering the European phase where the EPO did also act as (S)ISA, accelerated examination can, in principle, be requested at any time, for example 
- on entry into the European phase before the EPO,[ 9 ] or
- together with any response to the WO-ISA, IPER or SISR required under Rule 161(1) EPC.
14. When accelerated examination is requested, the Office makes every effort to issue its next action within three months of the examining division's receipt of the application, the applicant's response under Rule 70a or 161(1) EPC or the request for accelerated examination (whichever is latest).
15. The Office strives to produce subsequent examination communications within three months of receipt of the applicant's reply, provided that the application is still being processed under the PACE programme (see paragraph 4 above).  
D. Entry into force
16. The revised PACE programme will enter into force on 1 January 2016, and its conditions will apply to PACE requests filed on or after that date.  
17. Notwithstanding paragraph 16, the conditions of paragraphs 4 and 5 above concerning respectively the removal of an application from the PACE programme and the suspension of its accelerated prosecution will apply to pending applications from the entry into force of the revised programme.  
 
Notice from the European Patent Office dated 30 November 2015 concerning ways to expedite the European grant procedure 
This notice[ 10 ] contains information regarding ways to expedite the European grant procedure in addition to the programme for accelerated prosecution of European patent applications ("PACE").[ 11 ]
A further option is available under the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) pilot programme, which allows for the accelerated processing of an eligible European patent application when the claims of a corresponding application have been determined to be patentable/allowable by a PPH partner office, while at the same time allowing the EPO to exploit available work results.[ 12 ]
I. Ways to expedite the European grant procedure in addition to the PACE programme
A. Waiving the invitation under Rule 70(2) EPC
1. Before the applicant receives the search report, he can waive the invitation under Rule 70(2) EPC and request examination unconditionally, irrespective of the results of the search. In this case, under Rule 62 EPC the European search report is issued together with a first examining communication under Article 94(3) and Rule 71(1) EPC instead of the opinion on patentability under Rule 62 EPC. A prompt and full response from the applicant then ensures that the proceedings can continue quickly.
B. Waiving the communication under Rules 161 and 162 EPC
2. In the case of Euro-PCT applications, the applicant is informed upon entry into the European phase that he may amend the application within six months after notification of the communication. The communication further informs him that any claims fees due must be paid within the same time limit.  
3. The applicant may waive his right to the communication under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC. For efficiency reasons and to ensure that the waiver is duly considered, the applicant is recommended to check the box in section 6.4 of Form 1200. If the waiver is filed by separate letter it may, for instance, be worded as follows: "The applicant waives his right to the communication under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC."
4. The EPO will not issue a communication under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC only if, in addition to the waiver, on entry into the European phase the applicant has also fulfilled all the requirements of Rules 161 and 162 EPC (i.e. payment of any claims fees due and, where required, submission of a response under Rule 161(1) EPC) for the application to proceed directly to the supplementary European search or to examination. Where the right to the communication under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC has not been validly waived, the communication will be issued and the application will be processed only after expiry of the six-month period provided for under those rules, even if a request under the PACE programme has been filed.
5. Where a communication under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC has been issued, the applicant is entitled to the full six-month period for filing amendments. The supplementary European search or the examination will be based on the application documents as last amended at the expiry of the six-month period. If an applicant does not wish to use up the entire six-month period, he may request the immediate start of the search or examination. Such a request may be filed together with amendments. It need not be in any particular form and may, for instance, be worded as follows: "The applicant requests the immediate start of processing and waives his right to use the remainder of the six-month period under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC". The request is effective only if the applicant has also fulfilled all the requirements of Rules 161 and 162 EPC as set out above.
6. Applicants are reminded that waivers and PACE requests are to be distinguished and have to be filed separately.  
C. Waiving a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC
7. Applicants can expressly waive the right to receive a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC where amendments or corrections to the text communicated by the examining division by means of a previous Rule 71(3) EPC communication are requested. Provided that specific formal requirements are fulfilled and the examining division has no objections to the amendments or corrections, the Office will not send a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC and will proceed to issue the decision to grant the European patent. For further details reference is made to the notice from the European Patent Office dated 8 June 2015 concerning the possibility to waive the right to a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC, OJ EPO 2015, A52.
D. Early entry into the European phase
8. The EPO as designated/elected Office will not process an international application before expiry of the 31-month time limit from the date of filing or, if priority has been claimed, from the priority date (Articles 22(3)/39(1)(b) PCT, Rule 159(1) EPC). The applicant may request the start of processing before expiry of this time limit by filing an explicit request for early processing (Articles 23(2)/40(2) PCT). For the request to be effective, the applicant must comply with the requirements of Rule 159(1) EPC as if the 31-month time limit expired on the date early processing is requested (payment of fees, submitting translations, etc.). A PACE request does not affect the start of processing. Conversely, a request for early processing does not constitute a PACE request. Both have to be requested separately. Detailed information is provided in the notice from the EPO dated 21 February 2013 concerning the request for early processing.[ 13 ]
II. Accelerated processing of oppositions where infringement proceedings have been instituted, and accelerated processing before the boards of appeal
9. Finally, reference is made to the notice from the European Patent Office dated 17 March 2008 concerning accelerated processing of oppositions where infringement proceedings have been instituted[ 14 ] and to the notice from the Vice-President Directorate-General 3 dated 17 March 2008 concerning accelerated processing before the boards of appeal.[ 15 ]
 
 
[ 5 ] Regarding access to the acknowledgment of receipt please consult the relevant online filing tool functionalities.
[ 6 ] See Rule 10 EPC and Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, C‑II, 1.
[ 7 ] See Special edition No. 3, OJ EPO 2007, J.3.
[ 8 ] See Rule 10 EPC and Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, C‑II, 1.
[ 9 ] With Euro-PCT applications, the applicant can speed up entry into the European phase by expressly requesting early processing under Article 23(2) or 40(2) PCT, OJ EPO 2015, A94. However, accelerated examination in the European phase will not be performed unless requested separately under the PACE programme.
[ 10 ] Revised version of the Notice from the European Patent Office dated 5 April 2011 concerning updated Form 1200 (entry into the European phase) and the possibility to waive the right to the communication under Rules 161(1) or (2) and 162 EPC, OJ EPO 2011, 354.
[ 13 ] OJ EPO 2013, 156; see also Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office, E‑VIII, 2.9; Euro-PCT Guide (8th edition, 2015), points 427 et seq.
[ 14 ] OJ EPO 2008, 221; Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office, E‑VII, 4.
[ 15 ] Supplementary publication 1, OJ EPO 2015, 60; Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office, E‑VII, 5.

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