EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE
Information from the EPO
Notice from the European Patent Office dated 8 November 2019 concerning advance notification of the start of examination
Since amended Article 11(a) of the Rules relating to Fees (RFees) entered into force on 1 July 2016, applicants have received a full refund of the examination fee if their application is withdrawn, refused or deemed to be withdrawn before substantive examination has begun.1 To enable applicants to take advantage of this full refund, the Office sends them a letter (EPO Form 2919) informing them at least two months in advance of the date on which it expects to start substantive examination. Whether such a letter is sent for an application depends on a number of operational factors, including the length of time it has been due for a first examination action.2
However, the Office has observed that, in practice, only a few applicants take receipt of EPO Form 2919 as an opportunity to withdraw their application before the start of examination. The benefits this measure was expected to bring for both the users and the Office have thus not materialised.
Following consultation with users, the Office has therefore decided to stop issuing EPO Form 2919 as of 1 February 2020.
The Office will continue to publish the date of the start of examination in the public part of the file, so it will still be available for file inspection in the European Patent Register after publication of the patent application. Before publication, the Office will provide applicants with the relevant information at their request, or else they can access this information online via the My Files service.
Applicants unsure whether substantive examination has begun and wanting to withdraw their application only if they will receive the full refund may make withdrawal contingent upon the refund ("conditional" withdrawal).3
3 See Guidelines for Examination in the EPO, A-VI, 2.5. It is generally recommended that applicants use EPO Form 1018 to withdraw a European patent application.