Apart from the automatic extension of time limits under Rule 134 (see E‑VII, 1.4) and cases in respect of which the EPC specifies a fixed period which may not be extended, the duration of time limits may be extended, but the request must be submitted in writing before expiry of the period that has been set. The extended period is to be calculated from the start of the original period. No written confirmation is required for requests for extension of time limits filed by fax. For any communication raising a matter of substance, a request for extension, even if filed without reasons, should normally be allowed if the total period set does not thereby exceed six months. A short time limit for correcting a mere formal or minor deficiency should be extended under the same circumstances by two months. However, a request for a longer extension, especially if the total period set exceeds six months, should be allowed only exceptionally, when the reasons given are sufficient to show convincingly that a reply in the period previously laid down will not be possible. Such exceptional circumstances might be e.g. the fact that a representative or client is so seriously ill that he cannot deal with the case in time; or the need to perform extensive biological experiments or tests. On the other hand, foreseeable or avoidable circumstances (e.g. leave, pressure of other work) should not be accepted as a sufficiently exceptional circumstance (see Notice of the Vice-President of Directorate-General 2 of the EPO, OJ EPO 1989, 180).
In opposition proceedings, the time limit for replying to a communication under Art. 101(1) and Rule 79 or Rule 81(2) and Rule 81(3) can be extended. All parties to the proceedings can request an extension, irrespective of whether they were invited in the communication to reply. The extension granted to one of the parties automatically applies to all other parties. However, when a request for accelerated processing is on file, requests to extend time limits over and above the normal four-month period can be granted only in exceptional, duly substantiated cases (see OJ EPO 2001, 148).
If the request for an extension is granted, the party should be informed of the new time limit. Otherwise, he should be told that the relevant sanction has taken effect or will take effect. The failure of a party to reply to a communication from the Opposition Division within the period set does not lead directly to any legal consequence. However, the opposition proceedings will proceed to the next stage, and this could be a decision under Art. 101(2) or Art. 101(3).
If the request for extension of a time limit filed in good time has been rejected and the applicant considers this unjust, he can only overcome the ensuing loss of rights by requesting further processing under Art. 121(1) and Rule 135(1). At the same time, he may request reimbursement of the fee for further processing. A decision rejecting the request for reimbursement is open to appeal, either together with the final decision or separately, as the case may be (see J 37/89).