A decision may not be given until any time limit set has expired, unless all the parties affected by the time limit expressly agree that it need no longer be observed or have submitted their final opinions before it expires. The decision to grant a patent may, however, be given once the applicant is deemed to have approved the text submitted to him under Rule 71(5) and has fulfilled all other formal requirements, even if the time limit set in the Rule 71(3) communication has not yet expired.
Moreover, as a rule, decisions should not be given until an internal EPO time limit (e.g. 20 days) following upon the official time limit (but from which the parties may derive no rights) has expired, so as to ensure that documents received at the end of the period officially allowed have actually been entered in the files when the decision is being taken and can be taken into account in the decision.
With reference to submissions and applications received after expiry of a time limit, see E-VIII, 1.8.