An examining division will normally consist of three technical examiners. However, within the examining division made responsible for the application, one member (the primary examiner) will, as a general rule, be entrusted to carry out all the work up to the point of a decision to grant a patent or refuse the application. This means that this examiner is entrusted to act on behalf of the examining division in all communications with the applicant up to that point, but the primary examiner may confer informally with the other members of the division at any time if a special point of doubt or difficulty arises. Where reference is made in this Part C of the Guidelines to the "examiner", this normally means the primary examiner, and it should be understood that this primary examiner is always acting in the name of the examining division. This examiner is normally the examiner who drafted the search report.
As stated above, the examiner may seek the advice of other members of the examining division, if necessary, at any stage in the examination. However, a point will be reached when it becomes appropriate for the examiner to refer the case formally to the other members of the examining division. This will arise if the examiner considers the case is in order to proceed to grant or, alternatively, where there seems no possibility of amendment which would overcome his or her objections or where the applicant has not overcome these objections, and the examiner considers the case is in order to proceed to refusal. There are also other circumstances in which reference to the examining division is appropriate, e.g. oral proceedings may be suggested by the examiner or requested by the applicant because an impasse has been reached. In considering whether to refer the application to the division, the examiner should be guided by the principle stated in C‑IV, 3.
Primary examiners should also bear in mind that when they issue a communication they do so in the name of the division, and applicants are entitled to assume that if the examiner had doubts as to the views of the rest of the division he or she would have discussed the matter with them beforehand.
As soon as the application has passed to the examining division under Rule 10, that division will have ultimate responsibility, but formal matters will normally be dealt with by a formalities officer (see the Decision of the President of the EPO dated 12 December 2013, OJ EPO 2014, A6; OJ EPO 2015, A104). Examiners should not spend time checking the work done by the Receiving Section or the formalities officer, but if they believe a formalities report is incorrect or incomplete they should refer the application to the formalities officer for further consideration.
If the specific circumstances (e.g. sickness) so require, an application may be reallocated to another examiner/examining division. The director is responsible for deciding whether the dossier is to be fully reallocated to a new examining division or whether a single member of the division is to be replaced.