In a significant move, the European Patent Office (EPO) is poised to implement a series of crucial changes to its rules, set to take effect on November 1, 2023. Among the most notable alterations is the abolition of the long-standing “10-day rule” – a pivotal shift that promises to streamline and modernize patent proceedings.
HOW TO INTERPRET THE REPEAL OF THE “10-DAY RULE”?
The 10-day rule, currently set out in EPC Rules 126(2), 127(2) and 131(2), undergoes significant changes pursuant to a decision adopted by the Administrative Council on October 13, 2022, reflecting the EPO’s commitment to modernizing patent processes in light of evolving technological landscapes.
This rule stipulates that the date of receipt of a document is deemed to be 10 days after the date marked on the document. The rationale behind this rule was to account for postal delays, a necessity that has dwindled in the digital age.
Under the updated version of Rules 126(2) and 127(2) EPC, deadlines for responses will be calculated from the date indicated on the document itself, effectively removing the need to factor in an additional 10-day period. This change applies universally, irrespective of whether communications are dispatched via postal services or electronic means.
We could also present this change as a concept of a “new approach to deadlines” that moves us away from traditional time-dependent methods of task management. Furthermore, this concept also requires a change in mindset and methodology aimed at optimizing efficiency and speed of response. Оne of the most significant benefits of this change is the elimination of confusion surrounding when to apply – or not to apply – the “10-day rule.” This simplification of the process promises to bring greater clarity and transparency to patent proceedings. Moreover, the revised rules not only modernize the EPO’s procedures, but also bring them more closely in line with international patent standards. By abolishing an outdated provision and harmonizing it with the PCT, the EPO is poised to strengthen its global standing in the patent community.
While the removal of the “10-day rule” is poised to bring about positive changes, it’s worth noting that affected response periods will now be 10 days shorter. This could be particularly impactful in cases with shorter deadlines, potentially necessitating an adjustment in response strategies. While there may be an adjustment period for practitioners, the overall effect promises greater efficiency, clarity and harmonization with international patent practices.