Accelerated Examination at the EPO
One of the most frequent enquiries concerning the European Patent Office (EPO) is the speed at which patent applications are examined. It is not unusual for patent applications to remain pending at the EPO for several years, especially if the subject of the invention lies in a popular field, such as telecommunications or chemical compositions.
However, in recent years the EPO has begun to offer a variety of processes that may be utilised by an applicant to increase the speed of examination. Therefore, a protracted examination process before the EPO no longer needs to be the default position.
- One of the most effective ways of accelerating the progress of any European patent application is to file a request for accelerated examination, also known as a PACE request. A PACE request may be submitted at any time during examination, although we recommend submitting any such request as early as possible to maximise its effects. Once a PACE request is on file, the EPO is obliged to issue their responses promptly, usually within three months of any submissions by the applicant. PACE requests are, therefore, very useful in moving a patent application swiftly through examination.
- Further acceleration of a European patent application is possible by waiving the right to a communication under Rule 70(2) EPC. Rule 70(2) communications are issued by the EPO after the search report is finalised, inviting the applicant to make their comments on any objections raised before the application enters full examination. Waiving the right to this communication ensures the application will move straight from search into examination, reducing the time a patent application spends pending before the EPO by around six months.
- Additionally, if a patent application is entering the European regional phase from a pending international (PCT) patent application, the patenting process can be further accelerated by waiving the need for the EPO to issue their standard communication under Rule 161 EPC. Waiving this communication limits the opportunity for the applicant to make amendments to the application before examination, but advantageously reduces the time an application is likely to spend pending before the EPO by a further six months.
The three options outlined above are those most commonly used to accelerate the prosecution of a patent application before the European Patent Office. If you would like to discuss all the options for accelerating the grant of your European patent application, please do not hesitate to contact us. email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org