The “10-day” rule, which determines how the response deadlines to certain European Patent Office (EPO) communications are calculated, is to be abandoned from 1 November 2023.
This will make the calculation of EPO response deadlines more straightforward but care will need to be taken during a transitional period when the old and new time-limit calculation rules will co-exist.
The “10-day”rule that is currently in force is a notification fiction in which a document is deemed to have been delivered 10 days after the date on the document. The deadline in the communication in question then runs from the adjusted/deemed date of delivery.
Example: For instance, if an examination report with a 4 month deadline issued on 1 March 2023 then, under the current rules, the EPO deemed it delivered on 11 March such that the deadline fell on 11 July (instead of 1 July).
The 10-day rule was designed to compensate for postal delays but, as most EPO documents are now delivered electronically, the rule has become redundant.
As a result, for documents with a date of 1 November 2023 or later, the 10-day rule will no longer apply and deadlines for response will be calculated from the date on the document.
Example: If an examination report with a 4 month deadline is issued on 6 November 2023 then, under the new rules, it will be deemed delivered on the same day such that the deadline will fall on 6 March 2024.
Since the current 10-day rule does not apply to every document issued by the EPO, the removal of the 10-day rule from 1 November 2023 will make calculation of time limits at the EPO less confusing. However, care will need to be taken during a transitional period.
The changes to EPO time limit calculation rules will enter into force on 1 November 2023. In other words documents issued up to and including 31 October 2023 will be subject to the current time limit calculation rules (in which the 10-day period applies) but the 10-day rule will not apply for documents issued from 1 November 2023.
This means that there will be a period of overlap between the old and new time-limit calculation rules and care should be taken in the 6 months or so from 1 November 2023 to make sure you are working to the correct rules.
An exam report with a deadline of 4 months that issues on 27 October 2023 will be deemed delivered on 6 November 2023. The deadline will therefore fall on 6 March 2024.
However, an exam report with a 4 month deadline that issues a few days later, 1 November 2023, will be deemed notified on the same day such that the deadline falls on 1 March 2024.
More information on the rule change, including safeguards for documents that encounter “notification irregularities”, can be found in the EPO Official Journal at OJ EPO 2023, A29 (https://www.epo.org/en/legal/official-journal/2023/03/a29.html).
If you have any questions about how the above EPO rule change will impact your cases then please contact your normal Keltie representative to discuss further. You can also watch our Spotlight video below, which will give you a quick summary of the key details you need to be aware of.
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