Notice from the European Patent Office dated 26 May 2020 concerning abolition of the option to waive the right to a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC
When the European Patent Office (EPO) intends to grant a European patent, it first informs the applicant of the text intended for grant (Rule 71(3) EPC). If the applicant files amendments or corrections to that text or keeps to the latest text they submitted and the examining division gives its consent, the division issues a further communication (intention to grant) seeking the applicant's approval of the now intended text (Rule 71(6) EPC).
Since 1 July 2015, the EPO has offered applicants the option of expressly waiving their right to receive a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC. The waiver option was introduced with a view to increasing procedural efficiency by providing an alternative in cases where the examining division has no objections to the requested amendments or corrections and the necessary formal conditions for grant are fulfilled (see Notice from the EPO dated 8 June 2015 concerning the possibility to waive the right to a further communication under Rule 71(3) EPC, OJ EPO 2015, A52).
However, the EPO has observed that, in practice, only a few applicants avail themselves of the opportunity to expedite the patent grant procedure by filing a waiver. In addition, once applicants comply with all requirements for the grant of a patent, the EPO immediately initiates the preparations for publication of the patent specification and, as soon as these are completed, issues the decision to grant.
Following consultation with users, the EPO has therefore decided to abolish the waiver option and so always to establish approval of the text intended for grant in accordance with the procedure laid down in Rule 71(6) EPC. As a result, the EPO will no longer process waivers which are filed in response to a communication dated 1 July 2020 or later informing the applicant of the text intended for grant. Waivers which are filed in response to such a communication dated before 1 July 2020 will, however, still be processed.