Following the EPO's consultation on divisional applications earlier this year, speculation has now reached fever pitch as to how the EPO might change its rules regarding divisional applications. Although there has not been an official announcement from the EPO, it has been reported that a proposal to revert to the previous (pre-1 April 2010) procedure, supplemented by additional fees for the filing of second generation divisionals onwards, was put before the Administrative Council at its 16 October 2013 meeting and has been approved.
It is understood that the new rules on divisionals will come into force on 1 April 2014, the same day as the EPO's as-yet unannounced new fee schedule. This supports the expectation that an additional fee element will be included.
Depending on whether or not the proposal put before the Administrative Council on 16 October requires further work before the EPO can finalise the changes, the steps to implementation could include the following:
- Proposal put before the EPO's Budget & Finance Committee meeting on 29 October 2013.
- EPO proceeds with finalising proposal, including changes to the Implementing Regulations to the EPC and modifications to the schedule of fees.
- Final proposal put before the EPO's Administrative Council meeting on 9/10 December 2013.
- Details of changes published by the EPO in January 2014, with entry into force on 1 April 2014.
Overall, the changes to divisionals procedure should be excellent news for applicants, providing them with the ability to file divisional applications when they are required instead of being forced to file them when the current 24 month deadline approaches.
In view of the significance of the changes and the likely impact upon applicants, we would hope for an early announcement from the EPO.
In the meantime, applicants who are currently unable to file divisional applications because the 24 month deadline has expired may wish to keep their applications pending until at least 1 April 2014 in case it becomes possible to file divisionals from that date.