The EPO has announced that new rules on divisionals will enter into force on 1 April 2014, reverting to the old system for filing divisionals, i.e. allowing divisional applications to be filed based on any pending earlier European patent application.

At this stage, the full details of the rules changes and their implementation have not been announced. However, they will include "an additional fee as part of the filing fee for divisional applications of second or subsequent generation." Exact fee amounts have not yet been confirmed and are expected to be decided at the EPO's Budget & Finance Committee meeting on 29 October 2013.

Applicants who wish to file divisional applications but are currently unable to because the 24 month deadline has expired may wish to keep their applications pending until at least 1 April 2014 so that further divisional applications can be filed.

James Robertson, patent attorney and partner at Marks & Clerk, comments:

"This change is excellent news for applicants as it will provide them with the ability to file divisional applications as and when they are required instead of needing to do so within the current 24 month deadline. It should also benefit the EPO in that the volume of divisional applications is expected to decrease, in turn reducing delays in prosecution."

The EPO's announcement is accessible at www.epo.org/news-issues/news/2013/20131018.html.