3.7. Consequences of interruption of proceedings (Rule 142(4) EPC)

R. 142(4), first sentence, EPC (R. 90(4), first sentence, EPC 1973) states that the time limits in force as regards the applicant for or proprietor of the patent at the time of interruption of the proceedings shall begin again as from the day on which the proceedings are resumed. R. 142(4) EPC includes two exceptions in this respect, namely the time limits for making a request for examination and for paying renewal fees. R. 142(4) EPC does not, however, constitute an exception to the general principle that all time limits are interrupted. Its sole purpose is to specify how time limits are to be calculated when proceedings resume (J 7/83, OJ 1984, 211).

The board in T 1389/18 (citing J 9/06) observed that proceedings could only be resumed with ex nunc effect.

In J 7/83 (OJ 1984, 211) the Legal Board held that in the event of proceedings for grant of a European patent being interrupted because the applicant company has gone into receivership (R. 90(1)(b) EPC 1973), the period prescribed by Art. 94(2) EPC 1973 for payment of the examination fee is suspended as from the date on which payments were discontinued by court order up to the date on which proceedings for grant are resumed (R. 90(2) EPC 1973). The period then resumes for the part remaining to elapse, or for at least the two months prescribed by R. 90(4), second sentence, EPC 1973. In J ../87 (=J 902/87, OJ 1988, 323) the Legal Board stated that such an interpretation could not be applied to renewal fees, for which the EPC did not prescribe a time limit for payment but simply dates on which they fell due. The only time limit affecting renewal fees that might be suspended was the six-month period for paying the renewal fee together with an additional fee referred to in Art. 86 EPC 1973. R. 90(4) EPC 1973 had to be interpreted as deferring, until the date proceedings are resumed, the payment date for renewal fees which had fallen due during the period of the representative's or applicant's incapacity.

The board in T 854/12 held that, if a board was satisfied that the proceedings had been interrupted, this meant not only that any periods running at the time were suspended (R. 142(4) EPC) but also that the board could not hold oral proceedings or issue a decision in written proceedings. The board in T 1389/18 ruled that any oral proceedings taking place during an interruption and any decision announced at them by the opposition division had to be retrospectively deemed non-existent.

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