INFORMATION FROM THE EPO
Notices of the Vice-Presidents
Notice of the Vice-President Directorate-General 2 of the - European Patent Office dated 28 February 1989 concerning extensions of time periods in Examination and Opposition Proceedings
1. The conditions for allowing an extension of a time period under Rule 84 EPC are set out briefly in the Guidelines for Examination at E-VIII, 1.6. In this paragraph it is stated that, for any communication raising a matter of substance, a request for extension should normally be allowed if the total period set does not thereby exceed six months.
2. Discussions have recently taken place with interested circles as to whether the practice of allowing "automatic" extensions covering a total period of six months should continue or whether, in the interests of streamlining the procedure, the Office should now adopt a stricter approach and allow extensions only when convincing reasons are given. In these discussions, the interested circles expressed themselves strongly in favour of maintaining the present practice of allowing "automatic" extensions up to six months. This practice will therefore be maintained for the time being.
3. However, where in proceedings before an Examining or Opposition Division there is a request for a longer extension, the criteria set out in the Guidelines will in future be strictly applied. This means that, in future, such requests will normally be refused. The relevant part of the Guidelines reads as follows:
"However, a request for a longer extension 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, pressure of other work should not be accepted as by itself a sufficiently exceptional circumstance."
4. An applicant who, in response to the Notice of the President of the EPO concerning accelerated prosecution of European patent applications (OJ EPO 1989, 40), makes an express or implied request for accelerated examination, will be expected not to make any request for an extension of time (even in the period up to six months) unless exceptionally unexpected, circumstances arise (e.g. sudden serious illness).
5. If, in examination proceedings, a request for an extension of time is refused and the applicant fails to reply to a communication from the Examining Division within the period set, the application will be deemed to be withdrawn (Article 96(3) EPC). The applicant may however request further processing under Article 121 EPC.
In opposition proceedings, 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 Article 102 EPC.