The EPO issued a notice announcing that, on 1 January 2011, amended Rule 141 EPC and the new Rule 70b EPC will enter into force, that will apply to all european patent applications – comprising divisional applications – and international application entering into the european regional phase (Euro-PCT) filed on or after that date.
Specifically, according to amended Rule 141(1) EPC, the Applicant has to file a copy of the results of any search carried out for every priority application, at the time the application is filed or at the time the application enters the European regional phase.
According to new rule 70b(1) EPC, the EPO gives a period of two (2) months to the Applicant, at the time the examining division assumes responsibility for the application, for filing a copy of any search report issued for the priority application.
Where the Applicant fails to reply in due time, the application will be deemed to be withdrawn according to Rule 70b(2) EPC. Further processing can be requested pursuant to Art. 121 EPC.
Amended Rule 141(2) provides that a copy of the search results shall be deemed to be duly filed if it is available to the EPO and included in the file of the European patent application, exempting the Applicant from the obligation to file said copy of the search results. The decision of the President of the EPO of 5 October 2010 states that, among the search results that are available to the EPO and that will be automatically included in the file, search reports and written opinions issued by the EPO for any first filing Italian patent application will also be included.
New Rule 141(3) EPC provides that the EPO may invite the Applicant to file, within a period of two (2) months, information on prior art deriving from any search carried out by foreign patent office and taken into consideration in national or regional patent proceedings and concerning an invention to which the European patent application relates according to Art. 124(1) EPC.