The European Patent Office (EPO) has today announced that the 24-month time limits for the filing of European divisional applications are to be repealed on 1 April 2014. Amendments to the European patent rules coming into force on that date will allow a divisional application to be filed as long as the earlier (parent) application from which it is derived is pending.
The amended rules will apply to existing European patent applications as well as new ones. Accordingly, while the easing of the restrictions on the filing of divisional applications is good news for applicants, it may be a cause for concern for those relying on the current bar on the filing of new divisional applications from existing third party applications whose 24-month deadlines have already expired.
Another notable change coming into force on 1 April 2014 is that there will be an additional fee payable to the European Patent Office for the filing of divisional applications of “second or subsequent generation” applications (i.e. for the filing of new divisional applications derived from existing divisional applications). This additional fee increases with each subsequent generation of divisional application up to an upper limit at which point the fee becomes constant. Accordingly, if you wish to file a new divisional application from an existing divisional application, it will be more cost effective to do so before 1 April 2014.