From 1 July 2016, applicants will be able to enjoy a 100% refund on their examination fee for any application they withdraw, or which is refused or deemed withdrawn, before substantive examination has begun. Previously such refunds were limited to just 75% of the fee.
In this context and as an additional service, the European Patent Office will send information letters (EPO Form F2919) to inform applicants at least two months in advance of the date on which it intends to start substantive examination. This will help applicants to benefit fully from the new refund opportunity.
Initially these letters will be sent only in respect of certain applications according to operational factors, with letters for more applications being issued later.
Yes. Applicants are entitled to a refund under the given conditions, whether or not they have received an information letter.
There is no need to react to the information letter; substantive examination will begin on or after the indicated date. On the other hand an applicant intending to withdraw the application can be confident that with an effective withdrawal before the communicated date they will benefit from the full fee refund, since the Office commits not to start examination before that date.
In order to withdraw the application, the applicant must submit a declaration of withdrawal to the EPO, which must be unqualified and unambiguous. It may, however, be conditional upon a refund of the examination fee.
Yes. Any application which is withdrawn, refused or deemed to be withdrawn before substantive examination has begun will benefit from the full fee refund.
Yes. The full refund of the examination fee is due if the application is withdrawn before the actual start of substantive examination, i.e. until the examiner starts dealing with the application, irrespective of the date indicated in the information letter. The date on which examination has started is indicated in the European Patent Register by the presence of EPO Form 2095 “Examination started”. If the application has not yet been published, the examination start date may be obtained upon request (see the notice from the European Patent Office dated 29 January 2013).
Under the EPC, applicants must request examination (or confirm an earlier request for examination) within six months of receiving the search report. There are currently no further possibilities for applicants to influence the start of substantive examination.
As a general rule, substantive examination will begin soon after the date indicated on the information letter.