The European Patent Office (EPO) recently published the results of a consultation on the possible introduction of an option for deferring examination of European patent applications. This is an interesting idea and, in tandem with the existing possibility of requesting accelerated examination, could be a sensible option that would afford greater flexibility for applicants. Noting that some European patent applications have remained pending for the full 20 years of their term, it is hard to take blanket objections to this potential option too seriously and respondents were divided approximately 50:50 between those “for” and those “against” such a scheme.
Some interesting possible features of a system were explored in consultation questions. If the most popular features were followed we would end up with a system allowing up to three years’ deferral of examination from the deadline for requesting examination/confirming an intention to proceed with the application. Deferral would need to be requested by the relevant (exam request/intention to proceed) deadline and it would be effected by request alone with no fee, however a response to the extended European search report would still have to be filed. The system would also include a mechanism for third parties to trigger examination, i.e. end the deferment, by payment of a fee. Notably, there would be no need to reveal the identity of the interested third party.
On a nerdy note, for some data the report uses the interesting technique of presenting frequency of responses in bar charts with a logarithmic y axis.
By Tom Faulkner