Earlier this year, the European Patent Office (EPO) released their annual statistics report for 2017 which made for very interesting reading in a number of areas. In particular, this covers the first full year passed since the EPO initiated their Early Certainty from Opposition scheme in July 2016 aiming to bring the length of opposition proceedings down to an average of 15 months from the end of the nine month opposition window.
The quality indicators section of the report shows that that the average (median) duration of oppositions has now dipped below two years from 24.8 months in 2016 to 22.4 months in 2017, around a ten percent change. The average duration was 26.1 months in 2015, hence a five percent shift in 2016.
Last month, the EPO Boards of Appeal issued their annual report for 2017 which shows, unlike oppositions, the average duration of opposition appeal proceedings has increased, albeit slightly, from 34 months in 2016 to 35 months in 2017. In 2015 the average length was also 34 months.
While oppositions at the EPO appear to be picking up the pace, there does not appear to be any knock on effect regarding opposition appeal proceedings, and it remains to be seen whether the outcome of the recent consultation on the Rules of the EPO Boards of Appeal might impact this.
For further information on the EPO opposition and appeal procedures and associated strategies, including coordinating with corresponding US proceedings, please go to our webinar here on the strategic use of post grant challenges.