Request for early processing - Guide for applicants: PCT procedure before the EPO (Euro-PCT Guide), 'Euro-PCT Guide': PCT procedure at the EPO, E. Euro-PCT procedure before the EPO as a designated (PCT Chapter I) or elected (PCT Chapter II) Office, I. General
Request for early processing
431
An applicant can request the EPO as designated or elected Office to commence processing the Euro-PCT application at any time before expiry of the 31-month time limit. 
432
For this purpose, the applicant must file an express request for early processing under Articles 23(2) and 40(2) PCT. Section 12.1 of Form 1200 includes a check box for this purpose. However, the request is effective only if the applicant also fulfils the requirements for entry into the European phase as if the 31-month time limit provided for in Rule 159(1) EPC expired on the date he requests early processing.
433
This means that, for an application to be processed early, the following requirements must be complied with: payment of the filing fee (see point 540), including any page fees (see points 543 ff), filing of the translation (where applicable, see point 514), specification of the application documents (see point 478), payment of the search fee (where applicable, see point 592). Which further requirements must be complied with depends on the date on which early processing is requested, i.e. on whether the time limits for paying the designation fee (Rule 39(1) EPC) and the renewal fee (Rule 51(1) EPC) and for filing the request for examination and paying the examination fee (Rule 70(1) EPC) have already expired at that date (see points 556, 613 ff and 599 ff). The term "necessary requirements" is used to refer to the requirements that must be complied with for a request for early processing for the application concerned to be effective.
434
Where applicable, the certificate of exhibition must also be filed on entry into the European phase (see point 625). However, if this requirement is not met, this will not prevent the request for early processing from being effective, but it will affect the prior art that the EPO takes into account in the procedure.
435
Claims fees for any claims in excess of fifteen need only be paid before expiry of the period under Rule 162(2) EPC. Therefore, their payment is not a requirement for a request for early processing to be effective.
436
Since 1 November 2017, fees which need to be paid for a request for early processing to be effective may also be paid by automatic debit order. However, applicants should bear in mind that automatic debiting can only be performed if the EPO can establish whether or not a page fee needs to be included as part of the filing fee. This is only possible if the EPO has access to the documents referred to in Article 20 PCT, i.e. if:
the international application has already been published at the time the request for early processing is received,  
the EPO is the receiving Office, or 
the EPO is acting as (S)ISA or IPEA. 
If none of the above documents is available to the EPO on the day the request for early processing is filed, applicants should choose another means of payment. Otherwise the fees due will be debited on the date of receipt of the documents referred to in Article 20 PCT from the International Bureau under Rule 47.4 PCT. In this case, the date on which the request for early processing takes effect will be postponed to that date (see point 437).[ 30 ]
437
If on the date the request for early processing is filed all necessary requirements (see point 433) are complied with, the request for early processing is effective as from that date and the application will be processed in the same way as any "regular" Euro-PCT application which has entered the European phase. This means, for instance, that the EPO as designated/elected Office will issue the communication under Rule 161/162 EPC directly after it has established that the request for early processing is effective (see point 489) and on condition that the international search report has already been established. Furthermore, as from the date the request for early processing is effective, the applicant may file a divisional application (see point 676).
438
If on the date the request for early processing is filed any necessary requirement (see point 451) is not complied with, the request for early processing will not be effective on the date of receipt of the request but only as from the earliest date thereafter on which all requirements necessary on that date have been complied with (see point 433). It is only on the latter date that the application enters the European phase. From that moment on it is processed as if the 31-month time limit had already expired, i.e. in the same way as any "regular" Euro-PCT application which has entered the European phase.
439
If the requirements for a request for early processing to be effective are not complied with before expiry of the 31-month time limit, the EPO as designated/elected Office cannot start processing the application until that time limit has expired. 
440
From the date the applicant's request for early processing is effective, any subsequent withdrawal under Rule 90bis PCT will have no effect in respect of the procedure in the European phase.
441
Note that if early processing is requested because the applicant wishes not only the processing of the application before the EPO as designated/elected Office but also the examination of the application to start, he must have filed a valid request for examination (including payment of the examination fee) under Article 94 EPC, even if the time limit under Rule 70(1) EPC has not yet expired at the date of effective entry into the European phase, since examination will be taken up only if a request for examination has been validly filed.
442
Furthermore, if a request for examination is filed before the EPO has, where applicable, sent the supplementary European search report to the applicant, examination will start only upon receipt of an indication from the applicant that he wishes to proceed further with the application and, if required, a response to the extended European search report. The applicant may waive his right to be asked whether he wishes to proceed further. He can indicate this by ticking the second check box in Section 12.2 of Form 1200. 
443
If the EPO acts as designated Office and the IB has not yet transmitted to it a copy of the international application, the ISR and the WO-ISA, the applicant may but does not have to file with the IB a request to do so. If needed, the EPO will take care of this itself.
444
The same applies if the EPO acts as elected Office and the IB has not yet transmitted to it a copy of the international application, the ISR, the WO-ISA and the IPER with its annexes.
 
See Notice from the EPO dated 27 September 2017 concerning revision of the Arrangements for deposit accounts and their annexes, point II.2, OJ 2017, Supplementary publication 5, 2.

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