PUB  Finish in Eight Months  The EPOs Timeline

Finish in Eight Months: The EPO Sets Timeline for New Accelerated Opposition Practice

The European Patent Office ("EPO") has committed to specific timelines for its new practice of accelerating opposition proceedings.

Last year, the EPO announced its new practice of accelerating opposition proceedings if informed of parallel infringement or revocation proceedings before the Unified Patent Court ("UPC") or a national court of a contracting state. Now, the EPO has provided specific, short timelines. 

The EPO implements the following measures with immediate effect and will also apply these to pending proceedings:

  • Reduction of the period for the proprietor's reply to filed oppositions from four to three months if the EPO is informed about the parallel proceedings within the opposition period; 
  • Issuance of summons to attend oral proceedings within two months from the proprietor's reply or after the notification of parallel proceedings;
  • Oral hearing within two months after the summons or, if the parties are already summoned, potential rescheduling of the hearing to an earlier date;
  • Issuance of the decision within one month.

Currently, the average duration for first instance opposition proceedings—from the expiry of the opposition period to the issuance of the first instance decision—is about 20 months. With the new measures, the timeline may be shortened down to just eight months

Parallel to EPO oppositions, central revocation proceedings are possible at the UPC that cover 17 member states. The UPC aims for swift proceedings with a duration of about one year. The EPO appears to be adjusting its schedule in order to keep up with the new court. 

Notably, the EPO and the UPC have recently linked their registries to automatically inform each other about filed actions or oppositions. Therefore, the EPO may apply the acceleration scheme even without a request from the parties.  

The acceleration is not limited to proceedings before the opposition divisions. If notified by the linked registries or per request from the parties or the courts, the Boards of Appeal can also accelerate their proceedings.

The new measures aim to foster legal certainty, procedural efficiency, and uniformity within the European patent system. While this may be good news for the parties involved, it gives little time for filing rebuttal briefs. This puts more pressure on the parties to produce a first brief containing all requests, arguments, facts, and evidence needed. It will take a well-coordinated team of prosecutors and litigators to succeed in such speedy proceedings.

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