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EPO Speed of Examination

2 January 2019

In 2014 the EPO began a scheme, known as “Early Certainty from Search”, with the intention of improving legal certainty for pending patent applications. The scheme involved prioritising certain applications in order to clear a backlog of files, with the intention of delivering all search reports and patentability opinions within six months of filing an application.

The Early Certainty from Search scheme has been successful in clearing the backlog of files and it is expected that the aim of providing all search reports within six months of filing will be achieved by early 2020.

While many applicants, and often competitors of applicants, might be pleased with the greater legal certainty and faster examination, the EPO has recognised that faster examination is not always desired.

There is therefore a question as to whether there should be an option of delaying the search and/or examination procedure.

By postponing examination, an applicant may give themselves more time to develop their products and use this to guide their application and may also give themselves more time to file any necessary divisional applications.

However, this could give unnecessary legal uncertainty to third parties, who might require early legal certainty in order to begin manufacturing their own products without infringing.

In order to take all points of view into account, the EPO is carrying out a consultation which invites any interested parties to have their say on the matter. The form for giving one’s opinion can be found here:

The consultation is intended to conclude by 11 January 2019.

If you are concerned by the length of examination, want to know how it could affect your business, or have other comments which outside the scope of the EPO form, then please contact your Withers & Rogers contact.